June is Dairy Month: Raise a Glass of Milk to Our Hardworking Dairy Farm Families

Dairy Month, an annual celebration of dairy foods, farmers, and the industry, began in 1937 as a way to help distribute extra milk when cows started pasturing in the summer months. Today, Dairy Month continues, with communities, companies and people from all over the country observing June as Dairy Month in a variety of ways.

Here in Northern New York, we celebrate Dairy Month with the Jefferson County Dairy Festival in Watertown, and the St. Lawrence County Dairy Parade in Canton. I am looking forward to walking in the Dairy Festival Parade on Friday, June 3, and then enjoying an ice cream sundae afterward with my wife and grandchildren.

New York state is home to 5,799 dairy farms and 611,000 cows. In 2010, New York dairy cows produced 12 billion gallons of milk, or 20, 807 gallons per cow. The direct sales value of that milk is $2.2 billion, and the total value of farm receipts, distribution and processing is approximately $10 billion annually statewide and $50 billion annually regionally. New York state is third in the nation in dairy production, behind only California and Wisconsin. Another interesting fact - New York state is also third in the nation in the production of Italian and mozzarella cheeses.

Here in New York state, we are proud to host several large dairy manufacturing facilities, including Great Lakes Cheese in Adams and Kraft in Lowville—both of which are located right here in the 122nd Assembly District. New York state is also home to the country’s only Chobani greek yogurt factory, located in New Berlin, NY (Chenango County). You may have recently noticed the clever commercials on TV advertising Chobani, a product that is currently the best-selling yogurt in the country. In fact, Chobani is so popular the factory cannot make it fast enough and many stores have limited supplies.

Nutrient-rich dairy foods are one of the most economical sources of nutrition. In fact, few foods deliver dairy’s powerhouse of nutrients in such an affordable, appealing and readily available way. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages children and adults nine years and older to have three servings of low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese or yogurt every day. And at about 25 cents per glass, milk provides the richest source of well-absorbed calcium in the American diet. In fact, it would take three cups of broccoli to equal the calcium in one cup of milk.

As the ranking minority member on the Assembly Agriculture Committee, I am committed to supporting our state’s dairy farmers and the agriculture industry as a whole. One thing we, as legislators, can do to help our farmers is to reduce taxes, fees and regulations on family farms to help them be more competitive and to grow their businesses.

That’s why I am supporting A.5286, which would do just that. Crushing taxes, ever- increasing fees and endless paperwork are stifling business investments and are forcing farmers to spend more time pushing pencils and trying to cut red tape than actually farming. With agriculture facing increasing global competition, New York must provide farmers with the tools to succeed in their business-- not continue to construct obstacles to doing business, which farmers must hurdle on a daily basis. I am hopeful that the state Senate and Assembly can come together before the end of the 2011 session to pass this much-needed legislation.

I also was pleased to sponsor a resolution, which passed the Assembly on June 2, recognizing June as Dairy Month. As part of the Assembly’s Dairy Month celebration, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and I will be hosting Dairy Day in the Capitol on June 7th from 11:30 am - 1 pm in the Well of the Legislative Office Building.

While New York state’s dairy farms are diverse, all dairy farmers share a passion for their livelihoods and in producing healthy, nutritious dairy products for people of all ages to enjoy. Here in New York, we are fortunate to have thousands of dedicated farm families working day in and day out to put food on our table. So, during Dairy Month, I propose we raise a glass of milk to New York’s dairy farmers.