Back to the Guide to Farming Table of Contents>>

Assistance for Forest Owners

Woodlands are a valuable asset that if properly managed can provide harvestable timber, firewood, and agroforestry products.  If the land you own includes woodlands, it pays to become informed about this asset.

Following are agencies and organizations that are available to assist you:

Master Forest Owner Volunteers – Volunteers are trained by Cornell Dept. of Natural Resources and are available in nearly every county to provide answers about forest management questions.  They are a great resource for the new forest owner and can offer practical advice on questions pertaining to woodlot management, timber harvesting and other topics.  Find a MFO at the following website: www.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/mfo

NY Forest Owners Association (NYFOA) – The NY Forest Owners Association promotes sustainable woodland practices and improved stewardship on privately owned woodlands.  To become a member, contact NYFOA at 800-836-3566 or website: www.nyfoa.org

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s ForestConnect Program – Rural land owners, farmers, maple producers and others with woodlot interests can access considerable breadth and depth through the website www.ForestConnect.info Some of the resources on the ForestConnect site include:

  • Publications on topics that range from agroforestry and silvopasture, to selecting a forester, to knowing the value of your trees
  • The webinar series provides free monthly connections to experts on topics from vernal pools to control of invasive species to timber management.  Webinars are recorded and archived for subsequent viewing.
  • “Got Questions” provides access to an on-line moderated chat forum where owners can ask and answer questions, together with input from extension educators around the state.
  • Links to other resources such as calendar of events, who can help in your community, links to related websites, an e-list subscription for updates, and summaries of recent project activities.

NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation Division of Lands and Forests – www.dec.ny.gov/lands/4972.html – contact the regional office that covers your county and request the assistance of a DEC Forester – DEC foresters will prepare Forest Management Plans that identify your woodland resources and provide management options.

Tree Seedlings – tree seedlings are available for small planting and reforestation projects from the following sources:

  • DEC Saratoga Tree Nursery – www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7127.html or call 518-587-1120.
  • County Soil and Water Districts – many county SWCD also sell tree seedlings.

Generally orders via the above sources need to be placed by mid-March and will be shipped in April.

Species available from the above sources include:  conifers, hardwoods, mixed packets for wildlife or other conservation purposes.

Agroforestry and Maple Syrup Production

Interested in knowing the potential of your woodlands for products other than timber and firewood?  At the following sites you can explore the possibilities for producing maple syrup, grazing livestock, cultivating ginseng, goldenseal, mushrooms, native plants or other forest crops as part of your farm operation:

Cornell Maple Program: http://www.cornellmaple.com

Forum for maple producers to share ideas and equipment: http://www.mapletrader.com

Cornell’s How, When, and Why of Forest Farming Resource Center: http://www.hort.cornell.edu/forestfarming/

Beginners’ Guide to Silvopasturing (grazing livestock in forested areas): http://www2.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/info/pubs/agroforestry/Silvopasturing3-3-2011.pdf

Agroforestry Resource Center, Greene County: http://arc.cce.cornell.edu/

Agroforestry Overview, ATTRA: http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/agroforestry.html

Forestland Tax Exemption – 480-a

Privately owned forestland can be partially exempted from taxation but is liable for special levies/assessments under a state law called 480a.  The exemption is limited to the lesser of either:  (1) 80% of the assessed value of eligible acreage or; (2) the amount by which the assessed value exceeds $40 x the state equalization rate x number of acres.

To qualify for the exemption:

  • Requires an annual commitment to continued forest crop production for the next 10 years
  • Forests must be under a forest management plan approved by DEC
  • Must include at least 50 contiguous acres of forest land  (roads, rights-of-ways, energy transmission corridors, etc. are included)
  • Must have vehicular access for forest management purposes
  • Cannot have had a timber harvest for at least 3 years prior to application for certification under this program
  • Prescribed cutting may be required by DEC plan

To receive the exemption:

First Year:  Complete Form RP-480, must be accompanied by a 10-year commitment form from DEC and a certificate of approval from the county clerk’s office  – take these forms to your county/town assessor by the taxable status date (March 1).

Subsequent years: File a new copy of the 10-year commitment form with the assessor. If you fail to file the commitment form, the property is not eligible for the exemption.

For more information on this program, contact a DEC Forester in your region: www.dec.ny.gov/lands/5236.html

Agricultural Assessment for Maple Production

If you tap the maple trees on your forestland or lease your forestland to another maple producer, you may be able to qualify for an agricultural assessment.  This program does not require that a landowner develop or follow a written forest management plan and is less restrictive than 480-A. Please refer to the Agricultural Assessment section in Property Tax Exemption for Farmland (Fact Sheet #21) for details on this program.  If a landowner qualifies for agricultural assessment on their open land, they can also include up to 50 acres of attached woodland. However, maple syrup production is the only use of forestland that will qualify a landowner to receive agricultural assessment on its own.

Leasing forestland to a maple producer is an attractive option for landowners who would like to have their trees tapped but do not have the ability or desire to do the work themselves.  Oftentimes the tax savings of qualifying for ag assessment is more lucrative than the lease fees provided by the producer.  This requires a 5-year written contract with a maple producer who meets the minimum sales requirements for ag assessment.


This fact sheet is part of the Guide to Farming in NY by Monika Roth et al, published by the Cornell Small Farms Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Fact sheets are updated once annually, so information may have changed since last revision. If you are reading a printed version of a fact sheet, compare revision date with online fact sheet publish dates to make sure you have the latest version.

Back to the Guide to Farming Table of Contents>>

NYS Water Quality Regulations

www.dec.ny.gov/regs/4590.html – Farmers must comply with New York State water regulations to protect surface and ground water from contamination from eroded soil, pH, fecal coliforms, excessive nitrate and phosphorus levels.  If the DEC determines that you are the cause of a water quality violation, your farm will be subject to a fine and farming practices may be restricted or prohibited.  This law applies to all land owners and farm operators.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO)

www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6285.html – Farms with large numbers of animals (e.g. 200+ mature dairy cows) must have a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation permit.

Details of a permit:

  • Requires a comprehensive nutrient management plan to be completed and updated annually by a certified Agricultural Environmental Management Planner. Plan covers animal manure, wastewater, silage leachate run-off and more.
  • Requires expansion to be planned and limited by the farms ability to handle nutrients/wastes produced.
  • Does not protect the farm in the event of a manure spill or discharge.  If a spill takes place the farmer has 24 hours to report it to the state and 5 days to file a written statement on what happened.

CAFO filings are generally not public record but they could be if the farmer wanted their information public.

Agriculture Environmental Management (AEM)

www.nys-soilandwater.org/aem/index.html – In order to be successful in the long-term, every farm must sustain or improve its soil, water, and plant resources. Beyond regulatory compliance, it is to a farmer’s advantage to incorporate good environmental management practices during their initial planning, rather than confronting costly mitigation measures later.

AEM operates at a county level through Soil and Water Conservation District offices. One-on-one assistance is generally available to help you incorporate good environmental management practices into your business plan from the start, and to walk your land with you to evaluate areas of concern. These offices will also have information on funding sources (grants, loans, cost-shares) for implementing conservation practices on your farm. Locate your local county SWCD office at: www.nys-soilandwater.org/contacts/county_offices.html

Pesticide Regulations

When using pesticides, the Label is Law – make sure you read it!

Pesticide Applicator Certification – www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/298.html

Becoming Certified

A farmer using restricted use pesticides to protect crops and animals from pests on property owned or rented is considered a “private” applicator and must become certified by the DEC and show his/her pesticide license when purchasing these products.  General use pesticides, considered to be safer and in general use, do not require applicator certification for purchase and use.

To be eligible for certification: must have one season’s experience working with the crops, livestock or stored products on which you will use pesticides and be at least 17 years of age.

To become certified:  must take an exam based on information in the Pesticide Training Manual (Core Manual).  Additionally there are questions pertaining to the situation in which you use pesticides (category manual). You can obtain manuals through county Cooperative Extension offices.  Cooperative Extension also offers pesticide applicator training programs or you may study on your own and make an appointment with the DEC to take the exam.

For information on manuals and training, contact your county Cooperative Extension office or call 607-255-1866 or email ; web:  http://psep.cce.cornell.edu/certification/Certification.aspx.

For questions about the certification process and exams, call the DEC office in your region.

Upon passing the exam, your certification is valid for 5 years.  There is a fee for the exam and for certification.

Recertification

During the 5 years that you are certified, you must obtain continuing education credits toward recertification.  Credits can be obtained by attending meetings where pest management topics are discussed and credits offered.  A “Course Calendar” can be found at http://coursecalendar.psur.cornell.edu/; search the database of NYSDEC approved courses in your area.

Credits for private recertification: 8 for Agricultural Animal (Livestock & Poultry) and Aquatics, and 10 for Agricultural Plant (Field & Forage, Fruit, Vegetable, Greenhouse & Florist and Nursery & Ornamentals). Credits must be earned in more than one calendar year and consist of at least 25% category-specific training in each category of certification.

You are obligated to keep records of the credits you receive and turn in record sheets to DEC when they notify you that your license is about to expire.  If you do not have the required credits, you will have to take the exam again.


This fact sheet is part of the Guide to Farming in NY by Monika Roth et al, published by the Cornell Small Farms Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Fact sheets are updated once annually, so information may have changed since last revision. If you are reading a printed version of a fact sheet, compare revision date with online fact sheet publish dates to make sure you have the latest version.


Back to the Guide to Farming Table of Contents>>

Laws are constantly changing and vary by municipality.  The following are some general guidelines to know when living in the country:

Boundary Fences and Trees: In NYS it is the duty of both adjoining landowners to maintain a fence line and one party may not remove a fence without the permission of the other.  The same applies to trees; however, a property owner may trim the branches of a tree hanging on his side of the property so long as the trimming does not result in damage to the tree.

Fencing for Livestock: Fences intended to contain livestock must be constructed of materials that will restrain them.  If you have animals, let your neighbors know and provide them with contact info in case the animals get out or if they see something amiss.

Riparian Rights: Owners or others with exclusive rights to property may post the boundaries warning that if a person enters the property they are trespassing. Trespassers must leave the property if the owner so orders and they may be charged with a criminal violation. If not posted, the trespasser can argue that they thought the land was public. If a trespasser refuses to leave, a sheriff should be called to make an arrest.

Posting requirements include: at minimum 11 inch square sign with lettering to occupy 80 square inches exclusive of the name and address; the word POSTED in caps and the name and address of the owner. Signs must be located at property boundaries and corners and be conspicuously placed not more than 660 feet apart. Illegible or missing signs must be replaced at least once a year.

Landowner Liability: This is a very complicated issue and the best protection is risk management, insurance and posting.  While trespassing is illegal, it is also illegal for the property owner to harm the trespasser. If you give permission to someone to use your land for any purpose, it is advisable to warn them of hazards on the property.

Right to Farm Laws: The NYS Agricultural District Law has a provision that protects farmers against nuisance lawsuits and protects the right to farm, provided that sound agricultural practices are followed.  Many municipalities also have right-to-farm laws with additional provisions meant to protect farmers.  Check with your town officials to see if such a law exists in your municipality.

Farm Neighbor Relations: A way to avoid problems that may arise from the above situations is to let your neighbors know what you are doing on your farm and what to expect.  If you have to operate for long hours during planting and harvest season or will be spreading manure, let your neighbors know.  Communication goes a long way towards avoiding complaints about noise, dust, odor, livestock hazards, or farming practices.  Increasingly your farming neighbors will have had no exposure to living in the country and you can help educate them about agriculture and where food comes from by letting them know what you do.


This fact sheet is part of the Guide to Farming in NY by Monika Roth et al, published by the Cornell Small Farms Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Fact sheets are updated once annually, so information may have changed since last revision. If you are reading a printed version of a fact sheet, compare revision date with online fact sheet publish dates to make sure you have the latest version.

Back to the Guide to Farming Table of Contents>>

Municipal Zoning Laws

If you plan to build a new farm facility, establish a retail farm outlet, add worker housing, add horse boarding/riding facilities, etc., check with your local municipality to find out which laws apply.  Some common restrictions/requirements might include:  road setbacks, lot size, dimensions, signage size and placement, site plan requirements, screening, etc.

Farms located in certified agricultural districts are generally exempt from many local and some state regulations including SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review), some building codes, and from the need to provide professionally stamped plans for farm buildings, etc. Contact your county planning or assessment departments to see if the property you own is in an agricultural district.

If you are located in an agricultural district and find local zoning to be excessively restrictive to your farm development plans, check the NYS Dept. of Agriculture & Markets website for information on local laws and the agricultural district law and how they relate.  In many cases, the Agricultural District law protects farm operations from restrictive local laws.  For more information, access the following document from the Ag & Markets website:  Local Laws and Agricultural Districts:  Guidance for Farmers and Local Governments www.agmkt.state.ny.us/AP/agservices/new305/guidance.pdf

A process exists by which you can request an opinion from NYS Dept. of Agriculture & Markets Agricultural Protection Program staff to make a determination if a local law is restrictive to farming.  It is suggested that you call the staff and discuss the matter with them prior to filing an official request for assistance (see telephone number listed below).  Formal requests for assistance must be made in writing and include details on local restrictions and requirements as evidenced in zoning code or some other ruling.

Mail your request for review to:

NYS Dept. of Agriculture & Markets
Div. of Agricultural Protection & Development Services
10 B Airline Drive
Albany, NY
Phone:  518-457-7076
www.agmkt.state.ny.us/AP/agservices/agdistricts.html

If you are not located in an Agricultural District then you must comply with local regulations.

NYS Building Codes

Farm buildings are exempt from the building code for building construction. To learn about whether or not your farm is exempt from the property maintenance and some fire safety code requirements, contact:
New York State Department of State Code Enforcement and Administration
41 State Street, Suite 1130, Albany, NY 12231 Tel: 518-474-4073


This fact sheet is part of the Guide to Farming in NY by Monika Roth et al, published by the Cornell Small Farms Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Fact sheets are updated once annually, so information may have changed since last revision. If you are reading a printed version of a fact sheet, compare revision date with online fact sheet publish dates to make sure you have the latest version.

Back to the Guide to Farming Table of Contents>>

Farm Vehicle Registration

Go to the DMV and complete MV-82 Motor Vehicle Registration form and check the Farm Vehicle box – and complete form MV 260-F, part 1 – Certification of Farm Vehicle Use

Moving Farm Equipment on Public Roads

The “slow moving vehicle” emblem, a fluorescent or reflective orange triangle, must be displayed on the rear of vehicles drawn by animals, and most farm vehicles and construction equipment. It must be displayed on all equipment designed to operate at 25 mph or less, whether self-propelled or used in combination. These signs fade with time, so it is recommended to replace them every 2-3 years. The emblem must displayed separately on each piece equipment, whether self propelled or used in combination as per VTL 375-36(b).

It is unlawful to operate agricultural equipment on any public highway between 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise or at any time when visibility ahead or behind is less than 1000 feet, unless the equipment is equipped with approved, working lamps.  If on a public highway after dark, requirements include:

-       2 white headlights on front of tractor at the same height and as far apart as practicable

-       one red tail lamp at the farthest end (tractor or implement) and as far apart as practical

-       2 amber combined hazard warning and turn signal lamps at least 42 inches high at the same level, visible from front and rear. If just a tractor, these lights can be on the cab. If traveling with an implement, these lights need to be mounted at rear of implement.

-       2 red reflectors at the rear of the implement, at the same level and as far apart as practicable

Important Exception:

If the width of tractor/implement combination is between 12 and 17 feet, you cannot travel on public roads after dark. When traveling during daylight, red or orange fluorescent flags not smaller than 18 square inches and reflectors need to be placed at extreme corners of the load. In addition, 2 amber lights or hazard lights visible from the rear of the load must be flashing. If the vehicle or implement extends beyond the center line or is traveling during inclement weather, the implement should be preceded by an escort vehicle with a warning sign and flashing lights.

Transportation of Hazardous Materials on Public Roads

A farmer who is operating as a private business (not for hire) is exempt from vehicle placarding and marking regulations when transporting an agricultural product (hazardous material including fertilizers, pesticides, fuel, etc.) over local roads between fields utilized by the farm.

For additional information on SMV emblems, please refer to the State Vehicle and Traffic Regulations Title 15 Part 68 Slow-Moving Vehicle Emblem (15 NYCRR 68). For additional information on required lighting equipment, refer to the State Vehicle and Traffic Regulations Title 15 Part 43 Motor Vehicle Lighting (15 NYCRR 43.9) Section 43.9 Lighting Requirements on agricultural equipment. These regulations can be found at http://www.dos.state.ny.us/info/nycrr.html and selecting the Department of Motor Vehicles.


This fact sheet is part of the Guide to Farming in NY by Monika Roth et al, published by the Cornell Small Farms Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Fact sheets are updated once annually, so information may have changed since last revision. If you are reading a printed version of a fact sheet, compare revision date with online fact sheet publish dates to make sure you have the latest version.