A coalition of environmental groups has slammed New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plans to support the state’s growing yogurt industry by easing regulations on large-scale dairy farming operations.
Speaking at the first New York State Yogurt Summit in August 2012, Cuomo announced a number of proposed actions, which once implemented would help dairy farmers in the state increase the size of their herds and provide a greater amount of raw milk for the state’s booming yogurt industry.
Currently, farms with up to 200 cows are exempt from regulations requiring extra steps to prevent pollution from cow waste. At the summit, Cuomo proposed raising the limit to 300 to help these farms expand.
The coalition – comprised of the Sierra Club, Riverkeeper, the Waterkeeper Alliance, Environment New York, Environmental Advocates of New York, Earth justice, and the Citizens Campaign for the Environment – has condemned Cuomo’s proposal.
According to the coalition, the proposed rule change would lead to the leaching of untreated cow manure into nearby waters – causing “serious health impacts.”
Who will pay the cost?
Earlier this week, the coalition filed an 80-page formal comment with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in response to the proposed regulation modification.
According to the document, the proposed rule change would add 25,000 mature cows to New York’s dairy herd. This according to the coalition would create more than 1bn additional pounds of cow waste per year.
Water contamination by cow manure can contaminate drinking water, transmit bacteria and parasites, kill fish and cause the bloom of toxic algae, the coalition added.
“Without doubt, some of this urine and faeces will pollute surface and groundwater and air,” said the document.
“The fundamental policy questions raised by the proposed rulemaking and the proposed permit modifications are: how much environmental damage and what level of human health risk is New York willing to endure in the hope of increasing milk production to lure yogurt production to the state and possibly creating 900 new jobs, and who would pay the cost of this,” said the coalition document.
US capital of yogurt production…
Since 2000, the number of yogurt processing plants in New York State increased from 14 to 29, and yogurt production doubled in the state between 2005 and 2011. According to 2011 figures, dairy manufacturers in New York employ more than 8,000 people on wages totalling $414m.
This growth has been partly attributed to the introduction and continued popularity of Greek yogurt in the US. Chobani and Fage – both leading manufacturers of Greek yogurt – have had an established presence in New York for a number of years.
Aside from Greek, yogurt production in New York also looks set to be boosted by the arrival of Muller Quaker Dairy.
In August 2012, the company – a joint venture between PepsiCo and German dairy giant Theo Müller – broke ground on a yogurt manufacturing plant in Batavia, New York.
Speaking at the 2012 New York State Yogurt Summit, Cuomo made clear his intentions to help turn the state into the US capital of yogurt production.
“New York will do everything it can to facilitate a strong, prosperous partnership. We want the yogurt business to do well, and continue to thrive in New York,” he said.