ALBANY — The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets earlier this month hosted a meeting with its counterparts from Pennsylvania and Vermont to discuss the challenges the dairy industry is facing across the nation and explore opportunities the States have in working cooperatively to help benefit dairy producers regionally.
This meeting took place on the heels of the annual National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) conference in Hartford, CT. All commissioners of agriculture from across the nation, including the northeast’s 10 commissioners, gathered to discuss issues of critical importance to agriculture in the United States, including the ongoing concerns for the dairy industry.
"New York, Vermont and Pennsylvania all share common markets, challenges and opportunities in the dairy sector,” New York State Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball said. “We have more to gain by working together than by trying to address our challenges alone. I’m pleased that we have come to an agreement in principle with our neighbors to collaboratively seek ways to ensure that our dairy producers and processors can continue to provide consumers with some of the best dairy products in the world while striving to increase competitiveness and profitability.”
Together, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont comprise one of the top three milk producing regions in the United States. Collectively, the three States produce over 28 billion pounds of milk annually, more than 13 percent of the nation’s total milk supply.
The tri-State meeting was held in Albany on Sept. 14 with producers, processors, policy advisors and economic experts from all three States.
Attendees discussed the current dairy situation and dynamics, as well as opportunities for collaboration, such as increasing capacity and creating regional branding.
The agreement in principle provides for collaboration in the following focus areas:
Understanding and expanding our current marketing initiatives; Identifying gaps in the industry workforce; Identifying areas for economic investment; Understanding current research and its impact on the industry; and Investigating tools available to manage stress on farmers when milk prices are low.
New York is the nation’s third largest dairy-producing State, generating $2.7 billion a year, which is nearly half of the State’s total agricultural receipts. The average dairy farm in New York State is family-owned, consists of 139 cows and produces an average of 23,936 pounds of milk annually.
For every $1 spent by a dairy farming business, the local economy receives approximately $2.18 in wages and related business transactions. For every job created by a milk processing plant, at least two more jobs are supported in related industries or sectors.
Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said, “Dairy is critical to Pennsylvania’s economy and the vitality of our communities, as it is for our Northeast neighbors. Collectively, we face tremendous challenges, but the industry is resilient. Our collaboration can only enhance our efforts to build markets, innovate, and support the industry’s viability.”
Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said, “We need to help our dairy farmers in times of low milk prices. Working on a regional approach may get us there faster. We won’t let up on getting to a better place for our farmers.”
The voluntary agreement among the three States is the latest step in a series of actions New York State has taken to support the dairy industry. The State has actively encouraged the expansion of new markets and improved marketing of its dairy products through programs like Taste NY. It is also promoting the New York dairy industry and encouraging increased consumer consumption of local dairy products through the New York Grown & Certified program, the State’s Farm-to-School program and is working with its sister agencies to increase the use of New York State products in schools through the State’s No Student Goes Hungry Program.
The State also reconvened its Milk Marketing Advisory Council to ramp up conversations on assisting the dairy industry and is working with the NYS Dairy Promotion Order to research new and innovative uses for New York dairy products and increase consumption of New York produced milk.
The State has invested over $88 million to improve dairy processing facilities across the State and increase production capacity by roughly 24 percent since 2000. Funding has helped expand existing dairy processing facilities or attract new companies to New York that are committed to using milk from local farms for a variety of products, including yogurt, cheese and extended shelf-life beverages.
In addition, earlier this year, the State announced the availability of $30 million to support conservation easement projects on dairy farms to help diversify operations or transition farms to the next generation at a more affordable cost while maintaining agricultural uses for the land.
About New York’s Dairy Sector
The largest sector of the agricultural industry, New York's dairy industry accounts for approximately one-half of its on-farm production, support services and value-added products. New York State is home to approximately 4,500 dairy farms with 620,000 cows, producing 14.9 billion pounds of milk. New York ranks third in the production of milk, and is first in the nation in the production of other dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese.