View from the Assembly

By state Assemblyman Will Barclay

 There has been some good news lately involving dairy and the local economy.

New York was recently named the top yogurt producer in the nation. This is the second year our state has earned this distinction, in large part due to the Greek yogurt producers who call New York home.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, New York produced 741 million pounds of yogurt, up from 695 million pounds in 2012. New York also accounted for 15.7 percent of the total U.S. yogurt production in 2013.

 This is great news for the industry. June is National Dairy Month. I want to take some time this month to highlight just how important dairy is to our region.

Milk accounts for nearly half of all agricultural receipts. In 2013, cash receipts from the marketing of milk in New York increased from $2.21 billion in 2010 to $2.85 billion in 2013. Greek yogurt has created another market for fluid milk on top of an already vibrant market for  cheese, cream and butter.

The Greek yogurt boom has directly impacted farmers and the local economy as well. Earlier this month, the region’s much anticipated Agrana Fruit plant in Lysander completed construction and will soon employ 120 workers when fully operational.

The company produces fruit filling for yogurt and, according to the Empire State Development Corp., is already employing 60 people.

 Agricultural is known for creating more jobs and supporting additional businesses in the surrounding area. Economists refer to this as the multiplier effect.

The dairy multiplier effect is 2.3, which is high compared to other industries. To give an example, the total sale of milk in 2012 for Jefferson, Onondaga and Oswego counties was $208 million, but the economic impact is estimated to be $416 million, according to Cornell Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This is because farmers need suppliers, restaurants, transportation, retail, and sales outlets to do business. All of this lends to the overall economic impact.

I’m pleased to see the state embrace our yogurt producers. For the past two years, the state has hosted a yogurt summit, which brings yogurt producers, dairy producers, and state officials together to try and find new ways to support the industry.

As a result, one of the programs devised to help dairy production is the Dairy Acceleration Program (“DAP”). The state, with Cornell Cooperative Extension administrating the program, aims to assist dairy farmers to enhance their farms by providing funding (up to 80 percent of project costs) for business projects on the farm.

Some examples of projects being funded through DAP include nutrition management plans, as well as storage and handling of manure.

For example, up to $6,000 is available per farm to develop a Comprehensive Nutrient Management plan for farmers with less than 300 cows. This program gives preference to small dairy farms.

To learn more, visit http://ansci.cornell.edu/prodairy/dairy_acceleration/index.html

In this year’s budget, with the help of state Sen. Patty Ritchie, we were able to pass the Beginning Farmer’s NY Fund, a pool of grant money allocated to catalyze the careers of emerging farmers.

Up to $50,000 is available for forward-thinking small farms that reside on less than 150 acres. We also reformed the estate tax. This will allow families to pass down their farms from generation to generation without being forced to sell them due to burdensome taxation.

The exemption threshold will increase from $1 million to $2.06 million this year. By 2017, the exemption threshold will be $5.25 million. By 2019, the exemption threshold will be in line with the federal level. Though I would have liked to have seen these changes be effective immediately, I’m glad we will eventually subject fewer people to the estate tax.

Dairy is such an important part of our economy. Though a dairy’s success relies on many factors, including fluctuating prices of commodities and demand for milk, I’m pleased the state has been able to lend a hand where it can and hope we continue to do more going forward for this important industry.

If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185.

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