Saturday, 22 June 2019 12:04

OP ED: Dairy Month Recognizes Benefits, Contributions of Dairy Farmers

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June is National Dairy Month which began in 1937 as a way to promote the health benefits of milk consumption and to celebrate award-winning cheese, milk, butter, yogurt, ice cream and other dairy products.

The designation also gives us the opportunity to thank and recognize dairy farmers for the hard work they do, especially here in upstate New York.

We live in the third highest dairy producing state in the nation, and each day products are distributed across the country and to international markets. According to a 2017 annual report on New York State Dairy Statistics, New York has roughly 623,000 cows, each producing around 23,936 pounds of milk each year. In 2017, 14.9 billion pounds of milk were produced, which was the highest ever produced in our state in the span of a year. New York processors also produced a record 128 million pounds of cheddar cheese, 291 million pounds of cream cheese, 27.5 million pounds of butter and 62.8 million pounds of nonfat dry milk in 2017.

Our massive statewide production of dairy products yields substantial benefits to farmers and to our state’s economy. In 2017, New York dairy farmers received $2.7 billion for milk production, a $215 million increase from the previous year. There were approximately 4,461 dairy farms in 2017, generating an average gross income of $613,258. This massive economic driver benefits other local businesses that transport and sell milk and many other businesses that make cheese, butter and other dairy products. For every job created at a dairy processing plant, it’s estimated that several more jobs are created in the local economy. This includes suppliers, plants, restaurants, transportation, retail, and operation of sale’s outlets.

Though the dairy industry in New York is competitive with other states thanks to our fertile lands and skilled farmers, the latest Census shows the amount of individual farms has diminished by 6% since 2012. I fear legislation that passed the Legislature on the last week of session will further diminish the amount of farms and ultimately raise the cost of food for consumers. The bill—which passed without public hearings in the Assembly—enables collective bargaining for farmworkers, empowers a new farm labor wage board to mandate wages for farmworkers, and mandates overtime pay after a 60-hour work week. While some compromise was reached before the bill passed, what the sponsors fail to acknowledge is that the cost of doing business in this state is already high and the bill will increase those costs for farmers. All of this puts them at a competitive disadvantage with other states. Despite strong opposition from farmers, the agricultural industry, and even farmworkers themselves, the Legislature passed this bill. I have been critical in the past of this legislation and, accordingly, voted against this in the Assembly because of the negative impact it will have on the agricultural industry.

I will continue advocating on behalf of all dairy farmers in New York who work so hard to produce excellent homegrown milk and dairy products for us all to consume and enjoy. We’re fortunate to live in an area that’s one of the leading producers of dairy in the country. I encourage you to take advantage of locally-produced dairy products at a farmer’s market, farm stand or super market to show your support for the industry. My column on the farm labor bill before it was amended can be read at https://www.assembly.state.ny.us/mem/William-A-Barclay/story/86806.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185. You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.

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