There might be a new Catskill dairy product on grocery store shelves, thanks to a boost from the federal government.

The Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship (CADE) received $99,990 in federal funds to develop and market value-added dairy products in coordination with regional dairy farmers and the State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill.

The money, received through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development agency, will be used to support the testing, producing, branding and marketing phases, CADE Executive Director Phoebe Schreiner said.

SUNY Cobleskill is opening a dairy processing plant on its campus as an educational facility. The plant manager, Michelle Somers, will be helping dairy farmers to develop a regional product line. CADE conducted a market research study with 10 dairy farms in the region and discovered that there would be a competitive market for cream cheese or string cheese.

These 10 dairy farmers will be the initial suppliers, but Schreiner said that the aggregate will include up to 20 depending on capacity. 

This grew out of CADE's Value-Change Facilitation Program, which focuses on building a market base for regional farmers, Schreiner said. The marketing study that identified opportunities for dairy products was conducted through this program. 

Dairy farmers, affected by the fluctuating cost of milk, will have the opportunity to get a good price for their milk as a value-added product.

A sharp decline in milk prices in 2013-14 made the concept of value-added products more appealing for farms. Schreiner explained that value-added products are not subject to commodity milk prices.

Lauren Melodia, program lead and value chain manager at CADE, said that the organization has been developing value-added products with regional farms for the last five years.

CADE will also host a legal clinic and help the farmers involved develop a business plan and marketing strategy.

Participating dairy farmers will provide aggregated milk to produce a product with a regional brand. Melodia said that farmers will also get the opportunity to learn how to use creamery facilities. 

Melodia explained that there regulatory obstacles between farmers and milk processing plants, and credits SUNY Cobleskill with finding a way to engage farmers to help them bring milk into a facility and make their own products.

"They [farmers] need the support of the university and public institutions to really create a product line that they can sell their milk to at an affordable price," Melodia said.   

Schreiner said part of the grant money will also go toward supporting the Bovina Valley Creamery and Cowbella to develop a marketing campaign for new products.

“We are really, truly excited about this,” Schreiner said.

Whitney Bashaw, staff writer, can be reached at (607) 441-7218 or . Follow her on Twitter @DS_WhitneyB .

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