Cayuga County CAFO farmers say unity, not blame, needed to protect water

Jon and Julie Patterson are the sixth generation of their family to work the land at Patterson Farms, an approximately 1,400 cow dairy farm that straddles the border between the towns of Aurelius and Springport.

With such a strong family history, the husband-and-wife duo said it’s one of their most important goals to leave behind a healthy farm for their children to one day take over.

That’s why the pair invited The Citizen to their farm to review what exactly is required and goes into a running a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) farm, a type of farm they say unfairly gets blamed for affecting water quality in Cayuga County.

“We strive to leave the land in better shape for the next generation than it was left for us,” Jon said. “We depend on water quality just like everybody else.”

In response to a lawsuit, the state Department of Environmental Conservation earlier this year unveiled a new draft of the permit outlining rules and requirements for CAFOs governed under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act, with a public comment period on the draft closing Oct. 11.

Many comments from prominent local groups centered around the apparent fact that only CWA-permitted CAFOs were having their rules revised to add transparency, while most CAFOs in the state, including all those in Cayuga County, are governed under the DEC’s Environmental Conservation Law permits.

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