Yogurt craze inspiring county leadership, state initiatives

NORWICH – The Chobani Greek yogurt craze continues to put the spotlight on New York’s dairy industry and the controversial issue of supply and demand. With current input of $1.30 to $2 per gallon to produce, but only $1.50 paid at the farm gate, farmers of small to mid-sized dairies are going backwards and even out of business from a lack of profitability.

Chenango County’s farmers could be losing up to 50 cents or more per gallon. Cornell Cooperative Extension Director Ken Smith said that’s because their cost of production tends to be higher because the farms here don’t have the economy of scale when they go to purchase supplies. Most of the farms in Chenango County are small to mid-sized with fewer than 200 cows.

For example, dairy farmer and Town of Sherburne Supervisor Charles Mastro said his feed bill went up a whopping $800 last month. “The cost of production is at least what we should be paid,” he said.

Meanwhile, manufacturers continue to suffer from a lack of milk availability. Chobani has been forced to look for supply outside New York and even built a facility in Idaho in order to

guarantee product for West Coast markets. The yogurt plant ships over 1.7 million cases each week across the country and demands more than three million pounds of milk a day. New York dairies are so far only providing 85 percent of it.

A resolution adopted by the Chenango County Board of Supervisors this month encourages Gov. Andrew Cuomo to develop a strategic plan to help farmers produce enough milk to supply not only Chobani in the Town of Columbus, but all of New York’s dairy foods processors. Smith recommends a plan similar to Wisconsin’s, where the industry, the state, farmers and educational institutions vowed to grow Wisconsin’s annual dairy output by 30 billion pounds of milk by 2020.

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