N.Y. (WETM) — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Department of Agriculture and Markets (AGM) announced funding to protect the water and soil around the Finger Lakes on April 7.

The Finger Lakes Cover Crop Initiative will receive $370,000 from New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund. The funding will go towards supporting the use of cover crops. According to the USDA, cover crops cover the soil (like the name suggests) and have numerous benefits.

Cover crops reduce soil compaction, control erosion, suppress weeds, increase soil moisture, and increase soil nutrition. Cover crops also help local wildlife by providing habitats for beneficial insects and small animals, attracting pollinators, and acting as a food source for animals.

“I’m proud that agriculture is at the table in the work that New York is doing to combat climate change, which includes our record investments in clean water,” said the Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “Keeping our waterways clean ensures our communities have access to safe drinking water not only today, but in the generations that follow. This cover crop initiative will bolster our efforts to protect our precious natural resources and provide help for farmers to develop more sustainable operations.”

Some common cover crops planted in New York State are sunflowers, oats, wheat, and clover. In addition to the benefits mentioned previously, the DEC and AGM say that cover crops protect groundwater by filtering surface water. These plants absorb excess nutrients used while farming and prevent them from joining local water sources.

The Finger Lakes Cover Crop Initiative is an expansion of the Eastern Finger Lakes Cover Crop Initiative, which implemented almost 5,000 acres of cover crops from 2018 to 2021. The current funding is just a small portion of the $400 million included in the New York State budget that’s allocated towards the Environmental Protection Fund.