How yogurt is changing North Country business culture

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sadi-junior/

A few economic development efforts publicized this week could mean more business for North Country dairy farmers.

-U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York says federal officials want to increase the amount of Greek yogurt available for school lunches. Schumer asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to modify the federal school lunch program last summer to incorporate Greek yogurt as a high-protein meat alternative. USDA officials told Schumer this week that they are starting a pilot program that could lead to more Greek yogurt in schools as early as April.

The Greek yogurt business has been booming nationwide. Two of the largest Greek yogurt producers, Chobani and Fage, have production facilities in upstate New York and buy tons of milk from dairy farmers in the region.

 

This leads to our second bit of news:

-The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority is trying to lure a Greek yogurt manufacturing facility to one of its sites in Ogdensburg or Lisbon.

According to the Watertown Daily Times, the Authority’s board of directors approved a $40,000 agreement with Phoenix Corporate Services of Boston, Mass., to market a concept proposal.

Deputy director Fred Morrill says this is a new approach. Usually, the Authority tries to attract developers with its acreage, utility links, and transportation hubs. This time, it is marketing a concept. Phoenix Corporate Services would act as a kind of headhunter, linking the Authority to potential developers.

The St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency is showing support, by paying 10 percent of Phoenix’s bill.

Authority vice chairman Frederick Carter says it’s too soon to move forward, because there’s not enough milk right now. He tells the Watertown Times that yogurt manufacturers might have difficulty finding enough milk to process.

But supporters say so many other people are looking into this, if the Authority is going to attract this project, it needs to do it now.

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One Comment

  1. I'm not completely convinced that the IDAs involvement leads anywhere but to preserving the jobs of the IDA folks.
    Yogurt is a fantastic, value-added product, particularly when produced on the farm. The current value of milk will not pay the bills, and it would be interesting to know what kind of prices the big yogurt makers are paying. If the price of milk doesn't come up above current levels, there will be fewer, not more, farmers willing to do the work.