The New York state dairy industry is in a good place right now, and state officials say they want to keep it that way.
When New York State Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball was a boy, he used to travel the state for his family’s farm business.
"It seemed like there were 60 dairies between Albany and Buffalo. And then there were a handful," Ball said. "And now at the department, we inspect and keep our eyes on close to 400 processing plants, and there are about 40 in the queue right now to get up and running.”
Ball says it’s not just the Greek yogurt phenomenon that’s fueling this golden age of dairy in New York state.
"Yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese products," Ball explained. "We’re in a great place, and we’re in New York where we can do this stuff, and we’re close to a great marketplace on the east coast.”
Ball says some of these new processing plants are also looking in different directions.
“Operations that will process dairy products, whether it’s yogurt, or some other dairy product, cheese, butter," Ball said. "We’ve got a lot of innovative butter and milk processors starting to look at smaller niche markets.”
But he adds the challenge is to keep things going, and not return to the days where dairy farmers lived or died depending on milk prices.
“Hopefully this developing of new markets broadens the marketplace and helps stabilize things," he said. "We’re looking all the time and connecting with industry to do just that; to keep it less of a roller coaster ride, and more a steady environment that we can grow and prosper in.”
New York leads the nation in production of Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and cream cheese. Ball says the state’s dairy farms have been able to keep up with the demand for the products.