Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Organics Managment for Farms

Organics Management for Farmers

Making the Most of NYS Food

NY Farm to Food Bank Tax Credit

Every farmer wants to see their produce and products consumed as intended, but sometimes some gets leftover in the field, packing house or processing warehouse. As of January 1, 2018, New York State farmers may claim a new refundable tax credit (leaves DEC website) for qualified food donations made to a food pantry, food bank, or other emergency food program.

Learn more about federal and state donation incentives (PDF)

Gleaning

In its most basic form, gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. There are a number or gleaning organizations across New York State. Find a gleaning organization near you (leaves DEC website).

Organics Management Options

There are a number of organic management opportunities for recycling organic materials on farms.

Whey Management

NYS ranks in the top ten major agricultural states in the nation in production of commodities with farmland making up 20 percent of land in New York State. The largest segment of the State's agricultural sector includes dairy. Whey is a natural byproduct of the production of dairy products (mainly cheese and yogurt) ,which must be managed in an appropriate manner. Agricultural management methods of whey regulated by DEC include:

Famers may be subject to the regulatory requirements under Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) permit program or solid waste regulations and requirements depending on the farmer's operation.

Summary of the uses and regulatory requirements of unrecognizable food processing waste on farms (PDF)

Feeding Food Scraps to Animals

For years, excess food such as breads, fruits and vegetables have been used to supplement the diet of farm animals. These pre-consumer foods come mainly from grocery stores and can provide a source of nutrients and can be economic benefit for the farmer. This can also be done with other materials such as whey and spent brewery grain.

The quantity of any food scraps fed to animals must be appropriate for their dietary needs and the storage prior to feeding must be conducted in a manner that is safe for the environment.

Feeding Food Scraps to Animals in New York State - Legal Fact Sheet (PDF)

  • Feeding of bread and other similar grain products (e.g., spent brewery grains, bakery waste, etc.) is identified as a pre-determined beneficial use and does not require DEC to be notified.
  • Feeding of any other excess food scraps and food processing waste as animal feed requires a Animal Feed Beneficial Use Determination (BUD)(PDF). Learn more about the BUD program.

NYS Department of Agriculture prohibits the feeding of garbage, offal or carcasses to cattle, swine or poultry (leaves DEC website)

Mortality Management

Routine mortality on farms are sometimes unavoidable, whether by natural occurrences, disease, natural disaster or fire. Disposing of animal mortalities is a natural part of agriculture. Although burying, incineration and rendering were once the accepted practices of disposal, carcasses from routine livestock farming operations may all be composted on the farm.

Farm Animal Disposal

Animal mortalities generated from farm-related activities and disposed of on a farm (does not have to be the generating farm):

  • Exempt under Part 363-2.1(b) (leaves DEC website)
  • Department of Agriculture and Markets rules specify that the carcass must "be buried at least three feet below the surface of the ground." (Agriculture and Markets Law § 377)(leaves DEC website)
  • For Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), the General SPDES Permit for CAFOs prohibits the disposal of mortalities in stormwater or any liquid manure or process wastewater treatment systems, and requires the carcass to be disposed of within three days. (CAFO Permit Section III.B.12.)

Certain municipal solid waste landfills may allow disposal of animal mortalities at their facility. Rendering may also be an option, although this option has become more scarce recently.

Composting of Farm Animals
  • For CAFOs, the composting of animal mortalities is exempt under Part 361-3.2(a)(4) (leaves DEC website). The CAFO general permit requires compliance with NRCS NY316, or they may follow management practices outlined in Cornell Waste Management Institute's 2014 "Composting Animal Mortalities" mentioned above.
  • For non-CAFO farms, composting of animal moralities is exempt under Part 361-3.2(a)(4) (leaves DEC website) , however the farm is limited to accepting up to 10 carcasses per year from off-site sources and the carcass must be placed within the compost pile on the day received to qualify for the exemption.
  • Animal mortality composting facilities that are not exempt can obtain a registration under Part 361-3.2(b)(3), (leaves DEC website) provided the operating criteria are met.

Cornell Waste Management Institute Guidance for Composting Animal Moralities (PDF).

Composting

Learn more about composting and composting regulations in New York State.

On-Farm Composting Handbook (leaves DEC website) - an update to this handbook will be available in January 2022.

Anaerobic Digestion

Learn more about anaerobic digestion, New York State anaerobic digestion regulations and use of digestate on farms.

Land Application

Land application is the management of organic wastes where the material is applied directly to agricultural fields as a source of nutrients and/or to improve soil quality, reducing the need for commercial fertilizers. methods include direct application to the soil surface or injection to the upper layer of the soil.

Learn more about land application of organic waste to agricultural fields and New York State land application regulations.

Agriculture Plastics Management

Disposal of agricultural plastics such as bale wrap, silage covers and feed bags can be a difficult waste stream to manage. Learn more about Madison County's agricultural plastics recycling program. (leaves DEC website)

Additional Assistance

NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets (leaves DEC website) works to promote New York State agriculture and its high-quality and diverse products, foster agricultural environmental stewardship, and safeguard the state's food supply, land, and livestock to ensure the viability and growth of New York's agriculture industries.

New York Farm Bureau (leaves DEC website) is a non-governmental, volunteer organization financed and controlled by member families for the purpose of solving economic and public policy issues challenging the agricultural industry.