August 26, 2008
Contacts: see end of release

North Country Farmers Baling -- Not Hay, but Ag Plastics

BigFoot is coming to North Country dairy farms in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties. BigFoot is a baler that condenses used agricultural plastics, such as silo covers and silage bags from dairy farms, into 40-inch-square cubes ready for recycling.
Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, New York Farm Viability Institute, and regional Resource Conservation and Development and Soil and Water Conservation District leaders are encouraging North Country farmers to prepare for the baler’s arrival by learning how to handle their used plastics.

The Cornell Recycling Ag Plastics Project has begun demonstrating the baler, which can also take greenhouse plastics and irrigation and maple tubing, on North Country farms. Dairy farmers interested in having the baler visit their farm or who wish to supply plastic for demonstrations should follow suggested best management practices for collecting their used plastics and call their local Cooperative Extension office for baler dates and details.

Best management practices for collecting used agricultural plastics include:
• 1) as much as possible, keep the used plastic free of mud and manure;
• 2) shake dirt and debris and pull weeds out of the plastics;
• 3) fold, roll or cut dry plastics into easily handled bundles,
• 4) separate different types of plastics, e.g., keep bale wrap separate from bale twine, separate bale wrap from ag bags and bunker covers, ag bags and bunker covers can be grouped together, keep feed bags separate and store other materials in separate groups, and
• 5) store baler-ready bundles under cover to keep them clean, dry and out of sunlight.

New York is the second state to test the current edition of BigFoot. Dennis Sutton of Bradenton, Florida, has been engineering the plastics baler by modifying and “beefing up” the type of equipment used for baling tobacco. The model being used on Northern New York farms is a trailer-mounted, gas-powered baler that is towed by truck from farm to farm.

One baler has already been demonstrated on farms in Clinton and Franklin counties. New York State Senator Elizabeth “Betty” Little secured funding that allowed the Champlain Watershed Improvement Coalition and Clinton County Soil & Water Conservation District to purchase a baler for use in those counties. In Clinton County, farmers began storing their plastics more than three months ahead in anticipation of the baler’s arrival.

Northern New York Agricultural Development Program Co-Chair Joe Giroux, Plattsburgh says, “The Northern New York agricultural industry is pleased to have all six of our counties participating in this project. Ag plastics recycling is one more way farmers can take an active role in being good land and water stewards and at the same time reduce the cost of farming.”

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County Dairy Educator Blake Putman helped organized Big Foot’s first 2008 visit to Northern New York. She says, “Dairy and livestock farmers from all sizes of farm operations have become involved in this project. I take calls regularly from producers who have heard about the baler and want to schedule a time for the baler to visit their farms. They are excited to have a “greener” option for ag plastics disposal.”

As part of the Recycling Ag Plastics Project, Dr. Lois C. Levitan of Cornell University’s Environmental Risk Analysis Program is identifying existing and potential recycling markets that will take the used dairy plastics and is encouraging the development of local recycling enterprises. The farm plastics can be reconstituted into such products as plastic lumber and fence posts.

The Recycling Ag Plastics Project has major funding from the New York Farm Viability Institute. New York Farm Viability Institute Executive Director Thomas Sleight says, “This recycling project is facilitating farmer interest in properly disposing of used plastics and getting them off the farm using a coordinated, regional approach. The three pilot areas of the project are setting a model for the rest of New York state to follow.”

Recycling Ag Plastics Best Management Practices information is online at http://environmentalrisk.cornell.edu. For more information for all agricultural sectors of Northern New York, go online to www.nnyagdev.org. # # #

CONTACTS for Recycling Ag Plastics Project

Recycling Ag Plastics Project Leaders:
• Dr. Lois C. Levitan, 607-255-4765
• Field Coordinator David Cox, 607-437-9794
Recycling Ag Plastics Project Key Regional Contacts:
• Western NNY: Chanda Lindsay, Director, Black River/St. Lawrence Resource Conservation & Development, 315-782-7289 x129
• Eastern NNY: Steve Mahoney, Manager, Clinton County Soil & Water Conservation District, 518-561-4616 x3; Blake Putman, Dairy Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County, 518-561-7450 x106
Cornell Cooperative Extension:
• Clinton County – Blake Putman, 518-561-7450 x106
• Essex County – Anita Deming, 518-962-4810
• Franklin County – Carl Tillinghast, Richard Gast, 518-483-7403
• Jefferson County – Art Baderman, 315-788-8450
• Lewis County – Frans Vokey, Joe Lawrence, 315-376-5270
• St. Lawrence County Brent Buchanan, 315-379-9192
Northern New York Agricultural Development Program Co-Chairs:
• Jon Greenwood, Canton, 315-386-3231
• Joe Giroux, Plattsburgh, 518-563-7523
BigFoot Baler designer: Dennis Sutton, 941-761-8293