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August 29, 2014
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More farms, Gov. Cuomo, not bigger farms

Nate Wilson

Ironically, the only feature of the governor’s yogurt summit that was noticed by the state’s large, liberal and powerful environmental coalition was Cuomo’s bumbling willingness to raise the CAFO limit to 300 cows. Quickly doing the math, multiplying the number of 200-cow New York dairies that could move to 300 cows, the “greens” arrived at an additional 25,000 cows in the Empire State. Heresy! What followed was a massive group hissy-fit and a well deserved first-class public relations headache for the governor. With visions of an additional estimated one billion pounds of cow manure stinking-up and browning-up the upstate landscape and waterways, the Governor has some ’splainin’ to do to these environmental folks.

Undaunted, the Governor forged ahead with two new initiatives. Under the auspices of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), he is doubling a state incentive from $1 million to $2 million per farm for instillation of anaerobic manure digesters. These facilities convert cow manure to methane gas used to generate on-farm electricity. The second proposal is to throw a modest $450,000 of state cash at the Dairy Acceleration Program (DAP) to dole out grants of up to $5,000 to farms wishing to increase cow numbers, and to provide them with aid for financial analysis, strategic planning, executing business expansion plans or adoption of Best Management Practices, engineering and/or design projects.

Today, the rising star of yogurts is strained or Greek-style, which uses three pounds of raw milk to yield one pound of finished product. So, how much additional milk will be required to supply these expanding and new yogurt facilities? The Northeast Dairy Foods Association (NDFA) estimates an additional four billion pounds per year, an increase equal to about 20% of New York’s current yearly milk production. That is not the output of the paltry 25,000 cows of the environmentalists’ deepest fears, but an additional 180,000 dairy cows. NDFA sees this milk increase as required within the next two years, likely an impossible goal. Somebody in Albany needs to take a bite out of the “reality” apple.