Does New York have a milk shortage?
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Julie and I have been working on some reporting for future stories on this issue. We'd like you to help us.
On one hand, the massive and much vaunted Greek yogurt boom in New York gives the dairy industry what many call a once in a lifetime opportunity. Today, Senator Chuck Schumer announced legislation to create special savings accounts to help farmers grow their herds:
Upstate New York was recently dubbed the ‘Silicon Valley of Greek Yogurt’ and I want our dairy farmers to have the financial tools to keep pace with that exciting growth in a way that stabilizes risk for them during the up-an-downs of the market. That is why I am launching a two-pronged plan that will create a savings bank to help dairy farmers manage profits during boom years, and also lower dairy farmers’ tax burden when they expand. Upstate farmers have got milk, and now we need to help them get more of it on store shelves across the country to keep the dairy engine revving in New York State.
Schumer says milk production in New York has to increase by 15% – 336 million pounds of milk in the North Country alone.
On the other hand, many dairy farmers I've spoken to scoff at the idea of opportunity. They say the federal milk pricing system makes it almost impossible to get ahead and expand their herd. Rather, they're often paid below the cost of production.
Cornell University researcher Andrew Novakovic dubbed this "The Chobani Paradox", according to the Wall Street Journal:
You'd think that a growing business can go to their supplier, whether you're talking about rolled steel or paper products or chip makers, and the supplier would say 'Great, I'd be glad to help you,' " said Andrew Novakovic, a Cornell University professor who wrote a paper titled "The Chobani Paradox" about how New York's dairy farmers have struggled to capitalize on the Greek yogurt industry. "In this case it's not so straightforward.
Meanwhile, at least one yogurt plant says it's not a problem at all. Julie visited the North Lawrence yogurt plant in northern St. Lawrence County today. The plant manager said, because the plant is owned by the Upstate Niagara farmer cooperative, their production is simply based on the amount of milk they can get from their members. Upstate Niagara is planning to roll out its own label of Greek yogurt this summer.
As we work on stories about this issue, we'd love to hear from you dairy farmers out there. Milk shortage or no? Will you – can you – milk more cows to sell more milk to Greek yogurt plants? Is this a golden opportunity for New York dairy, or a mirage?
Tags: agriculture, dairy, economy, farming, new york, schumer, yogurt