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Dairy farmers should be allowed to expand without penalty

— The agriculture industry is the backbone of the economy in Central New York. Central New York is home to many dairy farms and it’s imperative that they are able to increase the number of cows on their farms without incurring costly regulations.

Currently, dairy farms with more than 200 cows are hit with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) regulations. These regulations can cost farmers as much as $2,400 per cow. These regulatory fees could deter farms from expanding.

As the Greek yogurt industry continues to take off in Upstate New York, expansion is necessary for these farms to meet the growing demand. With New York representing 70 percent of the nation’s $6 billion yogurt industry, expansion would be profitable for many dairy farms. Locally, Byrne Dairy in Syracuse plans to expand into the Greek yogurt market and needs more milk to successfully make this transition. This milk should come from Central New York farms. But unless we make it easier for dairy farms to expand, companies like Byrne will be forced to spend their money at non-local dairy farms.

I was encouraged when Gov. Cuomo vowed to allow New York dairy farmers to increase the number of cows from 200 to 300 before they’d be hit with CAFO regulations. I implore the governor to make good on his vow. Doing so would allow New York farmers to house more cows and produce more milk. This measure would increase revenue to local farms and create more jobs, boosting our economy.

In addition to the reform in CAFO regulations, the governor recently put forth two initiatives I fully support that assist dairy farm growth. The first proposal calls for $450,000 to fund a Dairy Acceleration Program (DAP) that will provide grants and coordinate funding to help farmers who are interested in expanding their operations or increase efficiency. The second proposal would double the amount of incentive funding from $1 million to $2 million provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to farms that install equipment that turns organic waste produced by cows into electricity.

The growing yogurt industry makes this a prime period for New York dairy farms to expand. I will work with Gov. Cuomo to ensure farm owners can house more cows without paying steep regulatory fees and that we move forward with new measures that secure a prosperous future for Central New York dairy farms.

Al Stirpe represents the 127th Assembly District. He can be reached at 452-1115 or stirpea@assembly.state.ny.us.

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