Niagara Gazette

Columns

September 24, 2012

CONFER: Let the dairy industry grow

Niagara Gazette — The health benefits of yogurt are well known. But, it might also be one of the cures for what ails the upstate economy.

Consider that food production can best be compared to manufacturing. They are alike in that they are the last real wealth creators that we have in our moribund service-heavy economy. They require the growth and/or harvest of natural resources that are utilized by captive processes to create consumer goods and prior/while/after doing so, countless jobs are created in multiple support industries that acquire the resources (farming), provide support components (skid and carton makers), and distribute (trucking), market (TV, radio, and print) and sell (retail) the end product.

That’s why it’s such great news that there’s a yogurt boom of sorts underway in New York. PepsiCO has aligned itself with Theo Muller Group to invest $206 million in a Batavia plant that will open next year, employing 186 people. This comes on the coattails of this fall’s opening of another yogurt producer in that community: Alpina Foods’ $15 million facility will employ 50 by year’s end. This brings the number of yogurt plants in New York to 29.

To meet the near-term demand of the new players, New York dairy farmers will have to increase milk production by 15 percent.

Better yet, in 10 years or so, especially if Pepsi’s foray into the industry takes off (which it just might, especially at a time when the yogurt market is projected to more than double in size over the next decade), that need for milk could be almost a third greater than the current New York-produced supply. Those are heady numbers when one considers that New York is already the third-leading milk producer in the United States and its 5,400 dairy farms account for nearly $2 billion in agricultural receipts.

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