(#312) — Let’s begin with dairy farming, one of our most challenged agricultural practices.
In our lifetime there were hundreds of dairy farms. Now less than 30 farms produce milk and several of this small number may go out of business soon.
This can be turned around in short order. In Otsego County, New York, yogurt production from locally produced milk went from start-up to $1 billion in sales in 5 years. 850 dairy farms send their milk directly to this production center. Direct employment at this milk plant is 1,300. In Fulton County, New York, a different yogurt company opened a plant in 2008 at a municipal industrial park and is now constructing a $100,000,000 expansion and planning to add an additional 150 jobs at the site.
Sullivan County has every asset and opportunity possessed by these rapidly growing agricultural enterprises. In fact, we have greater assets. For instance, our Congressman requested to be on the House of Representatives Agricultural Committee, has an office in Liberty and is often seen at local events. One of the two NYS Senators to Washington, D.C. is also a member of the Senate Agricultural Committee. We have new leadership in county government on Agriculture, at Cornell Cooperative Education and at Sullivan County Community College.
Sullivan County dairymen and women want to make milk. They would be happy not to pay commissions for advertising their product and for shipping to distant production facilities. Less cost to the dairy farmer and a premium price for milk going to yogurt or other dairy product, such as the ever expanding and highly profitable cheese market, our close proximity to major markets and the industries clear preference for the high quality of New York State milk for value-added dairy products, is a potent recipe for local dairy success.
Expansion of dairy production in Sullivan County would yield many additional
economic, social and environmental benefits. Milk products require flavors. Our maple syrup enterprises could grow in size and number. Fruit flavors could be produced locally on a year around basis utilizing hoop house and field production methods. Food fabricators could open businesses. All could sell their product to local dairy product manufacturing as well as to major markets.
Repopulation of our extensive agricultural land base would add to the natural beauty of the county. Unemployment and other social expenses would decrease by several million dollars a year and tax revenues would increase by millions of dollars. The health of our neighbors would improve. The signal would go out that Sullivan County is and will stay a very beautiful and healthy natural environment for living and visiting. Our educational systems from K-college would gain new support and meet the needs of more of our youth while in school and provide them with the skills to take the hundreds of ever increasing local good paying jobs.
Steady, locally planned, financed, controlled economic development of agricultural enterprise, anchored by the dairy sector which now is close to extinction, is a profound opportunity that should stir the wealth of local talent and finance to assign this sector of sustainable economic development highest priority. No other invest- ment better supports tourism and health, the other major economic sectors of our local economy or provides the number of jobs we need.