By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star
---- — Federal and state officials announced action Thursday on several fronts that could benefit dairy farmers supplying the Greek yogurt industry. A spokeswoman at one of the company’s that could benefit said she appreciated the efforts.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a media release he is launching a two-part plan to provide state dairy farmers who wish to expand their operations to meet the demand being substantially fueled by the Greek yogurt boom. With increased demand for brands such as Chobani, the New York Farm Bureau predicts the state’s dairy farmers will need to be able to expand their output by 15 percent to keep pace.
To help dairy owners who wish to expand, Schumer plans to introduce the DAIRY (Dairy Augmentation for Increased Retail in Yogurt products) Act with Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. It would establish federal savings accounts targeted to farmers to help them save and grow during booms and to weather market downturns. The accounts would be structured to reward savings during periods when business is strong and defer taxes on those savings until farmers must withdraw funds to cover new expenses or manage cash flow.
He also introduced a second bill that will allow farmers who purchase cows that are already in production to write off the cows as a capital expense, lowering their overall tax burden.
“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-and-downs of the market,” Schumer said.
“We appreciate Sen. Schumer’s efforts on behalf of our dairy farmers,” Chobani director of corporate communications Melissa Stagnaro said. “We currently receive milk from more than 850 farms, and we want to see each of them have the opportunity to prosper and grow.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday in a media release that his administration is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to choose New York to implement the strained Greek yogurt pilot program. In January, the USDA announced that it would begin a pilot program to test the cost-effectiveness of including Greek yogurt in school meal programs. It would be part of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, which provide meals in public and private nonprofit schools.
A letter from New York State Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Darrel Aubertine to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined the state’s interest in being chosen for the pilot program, and encouraged the USDA to amend the protein crediting standards to better reflect the nutritional value of Greek yogurt.
In the last five years, New York’s yogurt plants have more than doubled in number and production, and milk production grew by nearly 850 million pounds, according to the release.