December 17, 2012
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces New York State is Now Top Yogurt Producer in The Nation, Delivers on Key Promises Made at Yogurt Summit to Help Dairy Farmers

Governor Cuomo Announces New York State is Now Top Yogurt Producer in The Nation, Delivers on Key Promises Made at Yogurt Summit to Help Dairy Farmers

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State is officially America’s Yogurt Capital, surpassing California in 2012 as the top producer of yogurt in the United States.

Since taking office, the Governor has worked to transform the state’s government into an entrepreneurial government that works closely with private sector industries to remove bureaucratic barriers and incentivize growth. In this vein, the Governor convened the state’s first Yogurt Summit in August 2012 to bring together dairy farmers, yogurt producers, and state officials to find new ways to support the industry’s growth in New York. The Governor today delivered on a promise made at the Summit, removing regulatory burdens to make it easier for dairy farms to expand their herds while ensuring that the state’s water bodies remain protected. As a result of this action, smaller farms will be able to expand their herd sizes without having to implement costly environmental permit requirements. By removing the regulatory burdens, New York’s dairy farmers will be able to increase milk production, which will benefit New York’s growing yogurt industry, create jobs, and grow local economies.

“The new New York State is a place where businesses can grow and thrive, and the fact that New York State is now, for the first time ever, the nation’s leader in yogurt production demonstrates that our efforts to open the state’s doors to business and grow the private sector are truly working,” Governor Cuomo said. “Our state government is working closer together with the private sector than ever before, rolling back bureaucratic red tape and addressing the burdens that are facing job creators. With New York State officially being crowned Yogurt Capital of America, it is clear that our approach to growing the economy and creating an entrepreneurial government is paying off.”

New York State #1 in the Nation in Yogurt Production

New York State yogurt processors produced 692 million pounds of yogurt in 2012 compared to 587 million pounds of yogurt in California. By comparison, in 2011, California produced 627 million pounds of yogurt, compared to 554 million pounds here in New York State.

While New York has gained a reputation as a national leader in Greek yogurt production, this is the first time since data on yogurt production has been available that New York has led the nation in all yogurt production. In the last five years, New York’s yogurt plants have nearly tripled in production, and milk production grew by more than one billion pounds. Governor Cuomo since taking office has rolled out a series of initiatives aimed to help the industry, including providing incentives for plant expansion and lowering costs for dairy farmers, which has led to increased milk production.

New York State is also the fourth largest milk producing state in the country, producing 13.2 billion pounds of milk in 2012.

Delivering on Request by Farmers at Yogurt Summit, Governor Cuomo Eliminates Burdensome Regulations on Small Dairy Farms to Help Increase Milk Production

As was promised during the Governors Yogurt Summit, the state lifted the current cap under the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations regulations (CAFO) from 199 dairy cows to 299 dairy cows. Under the new, more farmer-friendly regulations, issued today by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), dairy farms with 200 to 299 mature dairy cows are no longer subject to the CAFO regulations. Eliminating this costly regulatory burden on relatively small farms allows farmers to reinvest their resources to expand operations allowing the state to grow its milk production for the yogurt industry. CAFO farms that discharge remain subject to the Clean Water Act.

These regulations will become effective upon publication in the State Register on May 8.

According to the USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture, there are 872 smaller farms in New York State with between 100 and 199 cows. Under the new regulations, smaller farms can expand their herd sizes into the 200 to 299 range without having to immediately implement costly controls.

The new regulations can be found on DEC’s website at

Governor Cuomo Eliminates Duplicative Regulations on Medium and Large Dairy Farms

Under Governor Cuomos direction the State is also removing duplicative requirements for medium and large dairy farms. The state's action will exempt a permitted CAFO farm from most registration or permitting requirements under the solid waste program for the land application of food processing waste, storage of food processing waste with manure or anaerobic digestion of many organic wastes. Having the two regulations govern the same activity is a burden on dairy farms and provides no additional environmental protection.

The state's action will also exempt a permitted CAFO farm from most registration or permitting requirements under the solid waste program for the land application of food processing waste, storage of food processing waste with manure or anaerobic digestion of many organic wastes.

These regulations will become effective on June 17, 60 days after filing the final regulations with the Department of State.

Additional Financial Support for Dairy Farmers That Will Help Protect New York’s Water Supply

Today’s actions are matched with increased funding to help farmers invest in additional environmental protections. In the last two budgets, Governor Cuomo has provided $2.19 million for Cornell University’s PRO-DAIRY program through the Environmental Protection Fund and Aid to Localities Fund. The PRO-DAIRY program experts work directly with farmers to assess farm operations holistically, bringing best business practices together with state-of-the-art environmental and energy efficiency management.

Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, DEC and DAM have committed $16 million to farms in FY 13-14, which is an 11 percent increase over last year:

  • Committed $14.2 million for farms to implement practices to improve water quality and conserve topsoil;
  • Provided up to $1 million in additional funding from the Environmental Protection Fund to develop or improve Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans for dairy farmers, including the design of best management practices on farms;
  • Committed $450,000 for DAM's Dairy Acceleration Program to provide business assistance to farmers looking to expand their operations. Through the program, farmers will be able to tap into the expertise of the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) network and other agricultural programs to facilitate and grow their business and in turn increase production on their farms; and
  • Provided $822,000 in the Aid to Localities Fund to continue the PRO-DAIRY program.

DEC will work with PRO-DAIRY to develop Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans to help guide farmers on how to use manure or other fertilizer in the most effective manner to protect water quality and help improve profits. Through this initiative, more than 40 such plans will be developed and provide additional environmental protection as dairy herds expand.

The State’s existing Agricultural Environmental Management program and Cornell University’s PRO-DAIRY program advise farmers on properly managing their nutrient and crop fields. Through programs like these, farmers can grow their herds without increased risk to the environment.

Dairy Benefits New York’s Economy

Since 2000, the number of yogurt processing plants in New York has increased from 14 to 27 today with another major plant, Muller Quaker Dairy in Batavia, expected to begin production in a few months. This follows Alpina Foods, based in Columbia, South America, opening its yogurt plant in October 2012, also in Batavia. From 2007 to 2012, New York’s yogurt plants have nearly tripled in production, from 234 million pounds to projected production of 692 million pounds. Over the same time period, the amount of milk used to make yogurt in New York increased dramatically from 166 million pounds to approximately 1.7 billion pounds. Most of the increase in yogurt production is due to the introduction and production of Greek style strained yogurt, which requires three times more milk than traditional yogurt.

In 2011, New York’s dairy manufacturers employed an estimated 8,070 people with total wages of $414 million, a 14 percent increase from 2005. The significant increase of yogurt production in New York has had a positive effect on businesses throughout state, not only for the yogurt industry, but for dairy farms, manufacturers and local communities across New York.

Dairy farming and processing combined presents a total impact of $8.9 billion to New York’s economy. Moreover, one on-farm job is created for every 40 to 50 cows added. For every new job created on a dairy farm, an additional 1.24 jobs are created in the local community. And for every job created in the dairy processing industry, 5.72 jobs are created upstream.

Senator Patty Ritchie, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, “Agriculture is our state’s leading industry, and the growth of the yogurt industry represents a new opportunity for our farmers to expand, create jobs and provide a boost to New York’s economy. I applaud Governor Cuomo for partnering with the Senate Agriculture Committee to cut red tape, finding ways to help our hardworking farmers meet the challenges of this ever-changing industry and continuing to help grow New York’s thriving agriculture economy.”

Assemblyman Bill Magee, Chair of the State Assembly Agriculture Committee, said, “New York State dairy farms and farmers have always been a top priority of mine. I applaud the Governor for recognizing the importance of this industry and his efforts to continue pushing it forward, most recently helping dairy farmers to meet demand for the flourishing Greek yogurt market.”

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said, “These regulations will benefit farmers, the rural economy and the yogurt industry and help preserve agricultural land as open spaces, all while continuing to protect the state’s water resources. Duplicative regulations that made farmers go through two separate processes to reach the same end are now eliminated without sacrificing environmental protection.”

State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine said, “As a seventh generation dairy farmer, I know firsthand the challenges our state’s hugely important dairy industry is facing. Governor Cuomo understands dairy’s economic impact here in New York. These regulations will help dairy farms expand their operations and ensure that New York maintains its standing as the Silicon Valley of Yogurt.”

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams said, “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the State’s yogurt industry is thriving. Eliminating unnecessary burdens on New York’s dairy farmers will increase milk production, create new jobs and fuel the yogurt industry’s continued growth and expansion in New York State.”

Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau, said, “Governor Cuomo has repeatedly shown his understanding of the important connection between agriculture and economic development, a link showcased in the surge in yogurt production that has made New York the leading yogurt making state in the country. New York Farm Bureau greatly appreciates the Governor’s plan, and commends Commissioner Martens and his staff at DEC for their diligent work to reduce burdensome CAFO regulations in this state. This will allow our farms to grow responsibly, by continuing to care for our land and water while also offering milk processors, yogurt makers and consumers more of the high quality dairy products they are increasingly wanting from New York farmers.

David Haight, New York State Director of the American Farmland Trust, said, “We support Governor Cuomo’s vision that New York can have a healthy environment, local food production and a strong economy. Creating more economic opportunities for our dairy farmers while protecting clean water and productive farmland will sustain yogurt production and the state’s growing farm and food economy for generations to come.”

Travis Rea, Washington County dairy farmer, said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for our family farm that has been on this land for more than 200 years. We have wanted to grow to take advantage of new opportunities in the dairy industry, and thanks to Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Martens, we can soon add more cows and become a stronger, more efficient farm, ensuring our longevity for an 8th generation.”

Kerry Adams, Ontario County dairy farmer who attended Governor Cuomo’s Yogurt Summit, said, “When I attended the Governor’s Yogurt Summit, I expressed my desire to expand my operations and also my frustrations with the CAFO regulations that hindered me from doing so. I thank Governor Cuomo for listening to New York’s dairy farmers and acting on behalf of our industry.”