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Around The Grange
View From the Hill: Yogurtmania

By Grace Boatright, National Grange Legislative Director (View From The Hill Blog 10/3/12)

  OCTOBER 4, 2012 --

Agriculture is rarely in on things considered hip and trendy, but the new Greek yogurt craze is giving the dairy industry all the popularity it can handle, especially in New York.  About 70% of the Greek yogurt seen in the grocery store is produced with milk from New York dairy farms.

Personally, I’ve not yet had Greek yogurt but all of my coworkers tell me that it’s amazing and much creamier than other yogurts available. It’s also higher in protein and lower in carbs (why am I not buying this by the gallon?). Thanks to all of these factors, Greek yogurt now accounts for 35% of total yogurt sales in the U.S., up from just 4% in 2008.

The number of yogurt plants in New York has doubled in recent years, from 14 in 2005 to 29 in 2011. In those same six years, the quantity of milk used to make yogurt has increased from 158 million pounds to more than 1.2 billion pounds. That’s seven times more! Most of that jump in milk usage is from Greek yogurt production, which requires about three times as much milk than normal yogurt.

New York is finding it harder and harder to meet this growing demand thanks to land shortages, costly regulations, and property taxes. Chobani, the nation’s top selling yogurt that covers nearly 47% of the total market, now has to expand beyond its yogurt plant in New Berlin, NY all the way to Idaho. Idaho’s business climate includes cheaper land, lower property taxes and dairy-friendly environmental regulations.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to keep New York yogurt plants from moving out of the state by easing regulatory burdens on dairy farmers. Predominantly, he is trying to alter the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) cap from 200 to 300. Most dairy farmers in NY must keep their herds below the 200 cap or face much higher regulatory costs that can equal hundreds of thousands of dollars once the number of cows hits 201. Moving the cap to 300, Cuomo says, would allow dairy farmers to expand their businesses and save money. An estimated 800 dairy farms could benefit from moving the CAFO cap.

However, whether it’s made in NY, Idaho, or somewhere else, Greek yogurt fever doesn’t seem to be cooling down. In fact, I myself intend to buy some during my next trip to the grocery store. It just goes to show- farming might be one of the oldest professions in the world (we all know what the oldest one is) but it can still jump on the bandwagon and revolutionize industries.

Way to go dairy farmers!

-- Grace Boatright
National Grange Legislative Director

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