Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosted the state’s first-ever yogurt summit in Albany yesterday, meeting with industry leaders and introducing reforms aimed at making it easier for small dairy farms to expand.
With yogurt giants FAGE USA Dairy Industry Inc., Chobani Inc. and The Dannon Co. Inc. all headquartered in New York state, dairy farming and processing operations generate nearly $9 billion annually for the state’s economy.
At the summit, Cuomo announced the state is proposing to increase the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation cap from 200 to 300 milking cows, which will enable a small dairy farm to add to its herd while being exempted from requirements that farms with more than 200 cows currently face.
The costs of complying with the current CAFO requirement can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a statement from the governor’s office, which can make expansion unfeasible for a small dairy operation.
There are more than 800 dairy farms across the state with between 100 and 199 cows.
The state Farm Bureau estimates that if 10 percent of them were to add 100 cows to their herds, milk production would grow by more than 160 million pounds of milk per year.
The state will also work with the dairy and yogurt industries to lower energy costs by increasing and incentivizing the construction and use of anaerobic digesters, Cuomo said, which turn waste produced on the farm into energy that can be used by farmers.
Cuomo said the New York Power Authority will work with farmers and manufacturers to determine the feasibility of constructing anaerobic digesters in locations throughout the state for manufacturers and farms that cannot afford to purchase one.
“The yogurt industry is a true success story in New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As an entrepreneurial government, we brought all the stakeholders to the table to help the dairy industry and yogurt producers enhance their relationship so it is both beneficial to the companies and to the state.”
Since 2000, the number of yogurt processing plants in New York has increased from 14 to 29, with production doubling from 2005 to 2011.
Last year, the state’s dairy manufacturers employed 8,070 people with total wages of $414 million, representing an increase of 14 percent from 2005, the governor’s office said.
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