Chobani Greek Yogurt; Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
By Haley Viccaro
ALBANY, NY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that New York is the country's number one yogurt producer in the nation and is loosening restrictions on farms to allow more dairy cows to increase milk production.
The state's yogurt companies produced 554 million pounds of yogurt in 2011 and increased production to 692 million pounds in 2012, placing the state ahead of California in the top slot for yogurt in the nation, Cuomo said.
"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 demonstrated that our efforts to open the state's doors to business and grow the private sector are truly working," Cuomo said in a statement.
Over the past five years, the state's yogurt plants have nearly tripled in production. New York is the fourth largest milk producer in the country, reaching 13.2 billion pounds in 2012; California is number one.
The state is moving forward to loosen restrictions on dairy farmers and allow an additional 100 cows to be added to each farmer's herds to increase milk production and meet demand. Farmers had urged the state to make the change.
The Concentrated Animal Feed Operations, or CAFO regulations, currently allow farmers to have 199 dairy cows without a permit. Cuomo said he is lifting the cap on cows to allow 299 on farms. The regulations will take effect May 8.
"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," said New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton in a statement.
The CAFO regulation change is in response to concerns raised by top players in the agriculture industry during Cuomo's first state yogurt summit in August 2012.
The Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Agriculture and Markets will contribute $16 million to farms statewide to help farmers invest in environmental protections that would be needed when increasing herd size, Cuomo said.
The groups will provide $14.2 million for farmers to improve water quality and conserve topsoil on their farms, Cuomo said. The remaining funds would go toward nutrient management and other business programs.
Farms that increase their herds when CAFO regulations are changed are expected to add one on-farm job for every 40 to 50 cows added.
"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," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens in a statement.
The state's dairy farming and processing industries have a total economic impact of $8.9 billion to the economy, Cuomo said.