August 15, 2012
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Hosts First New York State Yogurt Summit

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today hosted the first New York State Yogurt summit to hear ideas from industry leaders, farmers and other stakeholders to help ensure that the yogurt industry continues to grow and create jobs in New York.


Since 2000, the number of yogurt processing plants in New York has increased from 14 to 29 today. From 2005 to 2011, New York's yogurt plants doubled in production. Over the same time period, the amount of milk used to make yogurt in New York increased dramatically from 158 million pounds to about 1.2 billion pounds. Most of the increase in yogurt production is due to the introduction and production of Greek style yogurt, which requires three times more milk than traditional yogurt.


In 2011, New Yorks dairy manufacturers employed 8,070 people with total wages of $414 million, a 14 percent increase from 2005. The gradual 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, produce manufacturers and local communities across New York.


Dairy farming and processing combined presents a total impact of $8.9 billion to New Yorks economy. Moreover, one on-farm job is created for every 40-50 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 diary processing industry, 5.72 jobs are created upstream.


The yogurt industry is a true success story in New York and today's yogurt summit is a prime example of how state government is going above and beyond to actively work with the industry to help it grow in New York and create jobs in New York, said Governor Cuomo. 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. New York will do everything it can to facilitate a strong, prosperous partnership. We want the yogurt business to do well, and continue to thrive in New York.


Many ideas were presented and discussed at the summit. As a first step of the ongoing conversations with the industry, Governor Cuomo announced at the Summit that the state will take new actions to help dairy farmers increase the size of their herds and therefore increase production in order to ensure that the yogurt economic boom continues in New York. This will be done by changing the state regulations to allow for smaller farms to have more cows while being exempt from some permitting processes.


At the Governors direction, the state is proposing to increase the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) cap from 200 to 300 milking cows. That means that small dairy farms will be able to add to their herd and at the same time be exempt from burdensome requirements that small farms face when they have more than 200 head of cattle. The costs of complying with the CAFO requirement can costs hundreds of thousands of dollars which makes expansion economically unfeasible. This new regulation will help farmers save money therefore allowing them to expand and create jobs. There are more than 800 dairy farms with 100-199 cows that could benefit from this reform and expand milk production for yogurt manufacturers. The Farm Bureau estimates that if just 10 percent of those farms add 100 cows to their herd, milk production would grow by more than 160 million pounds of milk per year. The CAFO threshold increase can be made while still ensuring environmental protections.


In addition, the State will work with the dairy and yogurt industries to lower energy costs by increasing and incentivizing the construction and use of anaerobic digesters which turn waste produced on the farm into energy that can be used by the farmers. This not only allows farmers to more easily manage the large amount of waste produced by cows, but save money on energy cost by turning that waste into a renewable source of energy. The digesters also produce electricity onsite, offsetting a farms electricity purchases from their utility and reducing energy costs.


The New York Power Authority will work with the farmers and manufacturers to determine the feasibility of constructing anaerobic digesters in locations throughout the state for manufactures and farms who cannot afford to purchase one. In addition NYPA will explore new incentives to help larger farms build digesters of their own.


Senior administration officials, led by Secretary to the Governor Larry Schwartz, will meet with the Public Service Commission to find a way to reduce interconnection costs between digesters and the state's electricity grid. Senior administration staff will also work with industry to discuss those federal issues that impede the growth of dairy, develop an action plan, and meet with congressional leaders to effect change.


Today's meeting was the beginning of an ongoing dialogue. There will be a follow up meeting based the issues raised during today's discussions.


Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said, The New York State Yogurt Summit has brought the agriculture and manufacturing industries together so our local communities, farmers, businesses and the dairy industry can all benefit from the recent yogurt boom. Government needs to be a partner in this effort so we can help create jobs and grow our economy, while providing consumers and their families with the healthy food choices they are demanding. I applaud Governor Cuomo and Senator Seward for their support of dairy farmers and this initiative, and look forward to working with them to provide any assistance that is necessary.


Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, Agriculture and its related industries are among the most important economic engines in the State of New York today. We must work together -- government and business -- to retain the companies that we have, to attract new companies to our state, and to nurture the spirit of entrepreneurship that lives and breathes in every county of our state. I commend Governor Cuomo for his vision and bringing us all together to find ways strengthen New York's agriculture industry.


Senator James L. Seward said, I am pleased Governor Cuomo has taken such a keen interest in the Greek yogurt explosion and, in turn, helped shine the spotlight on our dairy farmers, the backbone of New Yorks farming industry for generations. Dairy farmers have fought through a number of setbacks in recent years low milk prices, high feed costs, and always increasing energy expenses - they have new hope now. It is vital that we cut government red tape and continue to partner with our farmers to ensure they share in the success of the emerging yogurt industry. Senator Patty Ritchie, Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, said, Once again, Governor Cuomo is showing that 'Open for Business' is more than just a slogan. His quick response to the issues raised by our farmers proves that New York is serious about partnering with business to help create jobs, and keep our economy moving. I congratulate Governor Cuomo for his actions today, both for hosting this first-ever yogurt summit and for his rapid response to concerns that farmers raised, so that their businesses can grow. Assemblyman William Magee, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture, said, A lot of good came out of this summit and it greatly benefitted the dairy industry as well as the yogurt industry in New York. I commend the Governor hosting it and for making a strong commitment to taking action to improve dairy farming in upstate New York.


Rob Shea, Chief Financial Officer of FAGE, said, FAGE is happy the governor is taking a proactive interest in the yogurt industry and the farmers that support it. We look forward to long lasting success in New York State. Robert Parkhurst, Director of Operations of Alpina, said, Alpina is honored to participate in today's yogurt summit, and is proud to have located our first U.S. manufacturing facility in Batavia, N.Y. Alpina is committed to create collective prosperity wherever we are part of the community. New York will be no exception. With state support, companies like Alpina will continue to seek out New York, and the entire industry here will thrive. James McConeghy, Chief Financial Officer of Chobani, said, We would like to thank the Governor and his administration for their support and inviting us here today. As Americas number one selling yogurt brand, we are honored to be included in this meeting and work alongside the farmers and people of New York to grown the states economy.


Kerry Adams, owner of Black Brook Farm, said, As a dairy farmer I commend Governor Cuomo for recognizing that agriculture as the number one industry in New York State. I thank him for his willingness to have a very open and frank dialogue with both the framers and processors.


John Noble from Noblehurst Farms Inc., said, By bringing together the state's dairy sector and government leadership, Governor Cuomo is creating a framework for the industry to develop a common vision. A vision that ultimately leads to creating jobs, strengthening local communities and protecting the environment. A true New NY moment.


Dean Norton, President of the New York Farm Bureau, said, There are exciting challenges to be met in the New York dairy industry, and Governor Cuomo is leading the way to provide real change to help our farmers expand their farms and grow their businesses. The idea of reducing regulation while maintaining strong environmental standards fits into the Governor's plan that New York is open for business.


Major yogurt producers have been creating and expanding operations all across the stateChobani in the Southern Tier, Fage in the Mohawk Valley, Upstate Niagara's newly purchased facility in the North Country, and most recently, Alpina and Muller Quaker in the Finger Lakes. Those investment decisions in jobs and industry are a solid vote of confidence in the Empire State as the premier location in which to do business.


New York dairies differ greatly from the extremely large dairies of the Western United States. A farm in New York is considered large if it is over 1,000 cows, while it is not uncommon for farms in the West to have 7,000.


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