WARREN COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – North Country farmers are being asked to take part in a program to improve the health of Lake Champlain.

Farmers in five counties — Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Warren and Washington — are being recruited for the Lake Champlain Cover Crop Program, which aims to reduce soil erosion and runoff and the leaching of phosphorus — all of which affect Lake Champlain.

The program equips farmers to conserve soil, keep weeds away, and improve on the overall health of farming soil.

Farms that join the program are required to take part in the Agricultural Environmental Management Tier 3A Cover Crop Planning, Implementation and Evaluation process. AEM is described by Warren County as an incentive-based program that rewards the county’s agriculture industry for working to preserve and conserve the surrounding environment. Tier 3 of the system includes the development of conservation plans that tailor goals and plans to what farms need.

Conservation is a wide-reaching task for a water body like Lake Champlain. Dividing northern New York State and Vermont, the 490-mile water body also reaches into the Quebec province of Canada. The lake is a popular source of fishing, as well as a swimming and boating destination.

The DEC identifies rainwater and snowmelt runoff moving through parking lots and soil as a source of pollution that has built up within the lake. High levels of phosphorus, a common nutrient pollutant, can build up in a water body and create the ideal growing ground for a harmful algal bloom, which can be toxic to humans, pets and wildlife alike.

Farmers interested in taking part can contact their county soil and water conservation offices. Those include Clinton County, at (518) 561-4616, ext. 3; Essex County, at (518) 962-8225; Franklin County, at (518) 651-2097; Warren County, at (518) 623-3119; and Washington County, at (518) 692-9940, ext. 5.