The New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee (SWCC) works to advance on-farm, comprehensive natural resources management through the support of local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs). The SWCC operates under the leadership of the Department to establish policy, foster partnerships, and support diverse SWCD programming that help farmers address environmental challenges and protect New York’s natural resources.
The SWCC and its partners work to benefit the public through:
- Water quality management
- Flood resiliency
- Wildlife, habitats, and open spaces
- Agricultural stewardship
- Climate resilient farming
- Environmental education
- Stormwater management
- Invasive species management
- Stream restoration
The SWCC is composed of voting and advisory members who represent a wide range of agricultural, environmental, and other interests. It is made up of five voting members appointed by the Governor of New York State. The current voting members are:
- Representative-At-Large for Farm Interests: Dale Stein, Chairman
Dale Stein of LeRoy, Genesee County was elected Chairman of the SWCC in February 2015. Dale has served as a Voting Member of the SWCC as the Representative-At-Large for Farm Interests since 2006. He is senior partner in Stein Farms LLC, a 1000 cow, 2500-acre dairy farm where he is in partnership with his brother Ray, son Nate, niece Tasha, and nephew Jerrod. He resides on the farm with his wife Lilly. Dale has served on many boards and committees, and is the past president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau, a member of the Northeast Dairy Producers Association Board of Directors, the Town Board of Leroy and its Agricultural Practices Board, the Genesee County Ag Protection Committee, the Genesee County Soil and Water AEM Advisory Committee, and others.
- Farm Bureau: Darin Hickling
Darin Hickling of Edmeston, Otsego County, serves as the New York Farm Bureau representative to the SWCC. Darin is President of Hickling’s Fish Farm, Inc., a family-owned and operated business that has been supplying fish for stocking and wholesale since 1986. The farm specializes in raising largemouth bass. Darin is Vice President of the Otsego County Farm Bureau, currently represents his district on the NY Farm Bureau Board of Directors, and is formerly the Vice Chairman of the Otsego County Soil and Water Conservation District.
- New York State Grange: David Brass
David Brass of Rodman, Jefferson County represents the New York State Grange. An active Grange member for over 40 years, David has served as Grange Master of Adams Center since 1999 and as Deputy State Master from 2004 to 2007. He became the Special Deputy Statewide in 2007. David and his wife, Geraldine, have farmed for many years, having owned and operated a 134-acre dairy farm before transitioning to a sheep and heifer farm. David has been on the Board of Directors for the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District since 2002. He has worked with the District for many years, installing numerous conservation practices on his farm to protect water quality and enhance natural resources. Over the years David has attended several agricultural and water quality related trainings and events. His extensive background in water quality includes holding a Class A License for bacteriological and chemical water testing for 14 years and serving as water treatment plant operator for the Village of Chaumont for over a decade.
New York Association of Conservation Districts, Inc.: Scott Ryan
Scott Ryan of Montgomery County represents the New York Association of Conservation Districts, Inc. Since 1990, Scott has worked on his family-owned farm, Honorone Farm, in Canajoharie, New York alongside his wife, Kathie, and son, Justin. Scott has served on the New York Association of Conservation Districts since 2012, first as Division Representative, then Secretary in 2016 and 2nd Vice President from 2017 to present. He has been on the Montgomery Soil and Water Conservation District since 2007 and has served as Chairman since 2011. Scott is also a member of the Glens Falls/Saratoga Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Council, and Farm Bureau. Previously, Scott served on the Canajoharie Cooperative Milk Producers Association as Member-at-Large from 2000 to 2001 and President from 2001 to 2006.
Representative-At-Large for Urban, Suburban, and Rural Non-Farm Interests: Erica Goodman
- Erica Goodman of Saratoga County was appointed to the SWCC in 2016 as the Urban, Suburban, and Rural Non-Farm interests on the Committee. Originally from a dairy farm family in Washington County, Erica is currently the Farms for a New Generation Director at American Farmland Trust where she works alongside a national team to develop and lead AFT programs to ensure farmers and ranchers have the resources and training to gain access to land, steward it well and succeed in agriculture. She has formerly served as AFT's New York Director, worked as Associate Director of Corporate Partnerships with FoodCorps and held a previous position in national communications at AFT. She serves on the national Advisory Committee for Annie’s Project.
The Committee also includes nine advisory members:
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University
Principal Member: Benjamin Z. Houlton
Representative: Brian Rahm
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Principal Member: Joanie Mahoney
Representative: Dr. Stephen Shaw
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Principal Member: Christopher Watkins, Director
Representative: Daniel Welch
New York State Conservation District Employees' Association, Inc.
Principal Member: Caitlin Stewart, President
Representative: Jessica McLaughlin
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
Principal Member: Richard Ball, Commissioner
Representative: Elizabeth Wolters
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Principal Member: Basil Seggos, Commissioner
Representative: Aseem Kumar and Lauren Townley
New York State Department of Health
Principal Member: James V. McDonald, Acting Commissioner
Representative: Paul Kaczmarczyk
New York State Department of State
Principal Member: Robert J. Rodriquez, Secretary of State
Representative: Stephanie Wojtowicz
US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service
Principal Member: Blake Glover, State Conservationist
Representative: Dennis DeWeese
The goals of the SWCC are to:
- Establish policy to guide New York’s 58 County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and provide financial, technical, and educational support to assist them in developing and implementing programs.
- Play a critical role advancing nonpoint source pollution prevention efforts and ecosystem management services.
- Formalize consistency of environmental programs through cooperative agreements with local, state, and federal agencies and organizations.
- Lead the state’s agricultural pollution control and resiliency programs, including the administration of Environmental Protection Funds for the Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Grants and the Climate Resilient Farming Program.
- Plan, coordinate, and set policy for New York’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) framework involving over one-third of New York’s 33,000 farms across all agricultural counties statewide.
- Assist the Department of Environmental Conservation with implementation of regulations for New York’s larger livestock farms and Phase II Stormwater Permits.
- Serve as an information and idea exchange between member agencies and groups and advise all agencies of government on matters relating to soil and water conservation.
Information about the next meeting will posted here when available.
The most recent meeting of the Soil and Water Conservation Committee was held on April 26, 2023. The agenda is available below. You can watch a recording of the April 26 meeting here.
The meeting minutes from the March 21, 2023 meeting are also available below. You can watch a recording of the March 21 meeting here.
If you are looking for additional materials from this or another previous meetings, please contact us. Additionally, you can find a playlist of recent SWCC meeting recordings on YouTube.