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NYS Dept. of Agriculture weighs in on Local Law #7

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has weighed in on Local Law #7 in the Town of Seneca Falls.In a letter dated June 14th addressed to Seneca Falls Town Supervisor Greg Lazzaro, as well as the rest of the Town Board from Division Director Michael Latham, concerns were outlined within the proposed local law, which would unfairly target farmers.The Department of Agriculture and Markets received a request from Seneca County Farm Bureau President Ann Marie Heizmann to conduct a “generic review of the proposed Town of Seneca Falls Waste Disposal Law for compliance with Agriculture and Markets Law (AML) §305-a, subdivision 1.” The concerns were originally expressed by Heizmann regarding the impact Local Law #7 would have on farmers. The concern shared by those individuals hinged on the vagueness of the proposed local law, which was designed to prevent further development of landfills in Seneca Falls.One major concern specifically pertained to the “disposal and storage of manure in farming operations,” which was outlined in Section 6 of the proposed law. The Town’s version of the proposed law gave an exemption to operations following “sound agriculture practices,” while calling into question whether “sewage sludge processing and spreading” could go on. Latham’s letter challenged Local Law #7 reading, “The proposed law does not explain how the Town will determine if an agricultural practice is ‘sound’ and who will make the determination.”It continued,“The proposed law appears to prohibit the storage and land application of sewage sludge. The Department believes that sewage sludge, septage, and composted sludge have beneficial uses as fertilizer and soil amendments for crop production.” The letter goes on to point out that Local Law #7 could be in violation of the New York State Constitution, Article XIV, Section 4, which outlines how agricultural districts should be governed. Latham’s letter to elected officials in Seneca Falls continued explaining that “Local governments are prohibited from enacting and administering laws that would unreasonably restrict farm operations located within an agricultural district unless it can be shown that the public health or safety is threatened.”The letter closes assuring the Seneca Falls Town Board that “If the Town applies the Waste Disposal Law provisions to a farm operation located within a county-adopted, State-certified agricultural district, the Department may find such administration of the local law to be in violation of AML §305-a(1).”This latest round of debate and discussion comes after the Seneca Falls Town Board elected to table the proposed local law. Many residents who spoke at the last regularly scheduled board meeting, requested that Seneca Falls move forward with some form of a local law, which would prevent landfilling inside the Town.FingerLakes1.com will have more on this story as it becomes available and has reached out to the Seneca County Farm Bureau, the Town Board, as well as the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets for comment. Check back for more on this throughout the week.

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