Recently yogurt was declared New York’s official snack. "This designation is a fitting recognition of the importance of this state's yogurt industry, which has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to a Poughkeepsie Journal article by Jon Campbell.

Since the beginning of the "yogurt boom" in 2007, New York has catapulted in yogurt production. There are approximately 40 yogurt plants scattered across the state, wrote David Sommerstein in an NPR article; New York is the nation's top yogurt producer.

Dairy farmers are having difficulty supplying all the necessary milk for these plants, although state legislature has made efforts to help.

“New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature have passed all kinds of programs to induce dairy farmers to meet the milk demand,” according to the NPR article. “There are grants for modern milking equipment, new business plans and anaerobic digesters that turn manure into electricity.”

In 2012, state lawmakers and dairy industry experts gathered at Cornell University for the first Yogurt Summit. Since then, Cuomo has committed $1.85 million in grants for small dairy operations within the state.


According to an update provided at the second Yogurt Summit this October, about 100 farms have participated in the Dairy Acceleration Program in the last year, with 20 receiving help with their business plans, 36 gaining help with their nutrient management plans and 42 receiving help with both. The Dairy Acceleration Program is run by Cornell’s Pro-Dairy Program in partnership with the New York Departments of Agriculture and Markets and of Environmental Conservation.

New York's milk production has increased – up 10.2 percent from 2009 to 2013.

But because of the complexity of the dairy market, high demand does not necessarily equal high profitability, and some producers remain leery of over-investing in herds and facilities based on the current needs of local yogurt plants.

Mike Kiechle, whose herd size is about 200, was interviewed by NPR's Sommerstein for a couple of dairy-related articles. Kiechle said with "the return that we've had the last 10 years, you've got to think twice before you invest your money there."

And despite high consumer demand, the needs of yogurt production facilities are not immune to fluctuation. The same week the second Yogurt Summit took place, Alpina Foods announced a workforce reduction of 32 at its western New York yogurt plant.

The company said the layoffs are "a temporary but necessary approach to address immediate business challenges facing the company in the short term," according to the Poughkeepsie Journal article. PD

—Summarized by Progressive Dairyman staff from cited sources