Enviros say N.Y. yogurt could harm air and water quality
It’s the same old story: business growth vs. the environment. At least that’s recent media portrayal, as the NY Department of Environmental Conservation considers a proposal to change dairy regulations.
It’s been widely publicized that the Greek yogurt business is booming in New York. Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt, and requires more milk in its production.
Manure disposal at Stauffer Farms in Nicholville. The Stauffer dairy has well over 200 cows, and is regulated under more strict DEC rules. Photo: Julie Grant
Companies, like Chobani and Fage, both based in upstate NY, say they need more milk than the Empire State is producing. But when Governor Andrew Cuomo hosted his “yogurt summit” last August, he heard from farmers who couldn’t afford to expand.
The state regulates farms more than 200 cows, requiring extra pollution prevention controls on cow waste. Farmers at the summit said expansion could cost thousands of dollars per cow. Cuomo proposed raising the limit to 300 cows, to help farms expand without incurring the high regulatory costs.
The Department of Environmental Conservation held public hearings on the proposed change, and accepted public comments through much of January. The New York Farm Bureau and dairy operators the proposal would help small farmers stay in business.
But a coalition of environmental groups submitted an 80-page comment document, saying that easing dairy regulations would likely add 25,000 cows to NY’s dairy herd. They said that would result in more than 3 million additional pounds of urine and feces produced each day. "Without doubt, some of this urine and feces will pollute surface and groundwater and air."
The coalition includes Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance, Earthjustice, Environmental Advocates and Citizens Campaign for the Environment. They say the proposed deregulation is a violation of the federal Clean Water Act, and would prevent the DEC from enforcing manure runoff limits meant to protect Chesapeake Bay.
Both Chobani and Fage are planning expansions, and the North Country needs new economic development. The Ogdensburg Port Authority recently decided to lobby for a new yogurt manufacturing facility. But if they're going to manufacture here, they will need enough milk. I keep wondering if there's another way to boost production, without adding more pollution. (Stay tuned: in the next few weeks The Dirt will take a look at RBST/ RGBH as a means of increasing the milk supply, and why yogurt companies don't like it.)
Tags: agriculture, dairy, dec, economy, new york, regulation, small business, yogurt