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Local News

March 26, 2013

Despite demand, area farms not growing

Farmers say yogurt boom means survival but not prosperity

(Continued)

Costs for feed, fuel, labor and machinery have risen significantly while payments received for milk are stagnant, the result of an antiquated pricing system, Kiraly said.

The recently extended Farm Bill “spelled no reforms, just a continuation of the same policies,’’ according to Kiraly. While fluid milk brings the highest price, yogurt is Class II and does not yield as much income to the farmer in this pricing system, she said.

There is no question that New York’s farmers are benefiting from demand by yogurt producers across the state, Steve Ammerman, spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau, a membership lobbying organization. The state’s farmers are up to meeting the yogurt industry’s need for high-quality milk, he said Monday.

However, the costs of feed, fuel, land and other expenses remain challenges for dairy farmers, Ammerman said, and the Farm Bureau continues to promote measures to help farmers, including some pro-dairy funding programs expected in this year’s state budget.

“We’re looking to grow all farms,’’ Ammerman said. There are 5,400 dairy farms statewide, he said.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, in 2012 there were 610,000 milk cows on farms in New York state. The breakdown by county was 13,700 cows in Chenango, 10,300 in Delaware, 11,100 in Otsego and 5,900 in Schoharie County.

Sitts in Delaware County said he has had 85 milkers for about 15 years and to increase the herd would mean a capital investment plus hiring help.

“I’d have to put up a lot of capital to expand,’’ Sitts said. “There’s no financial incentive.’’

Federal and state lawmakers during the past year have been proposing measures, such as tax exemptions and investment incentives, to help dairy farmers. But local dairy farmers don’t need relaxed regulations on herd size or government incentives for methane digesters to handle waste, Sitts said.

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