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'Sober' year for dairy industry might benefit from expanded NY Grown & Certified program

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)
Jersey cows at Silver Spring Farm in Syracuse.

The wet weather has made it another challenging year for dairy farmers. State agriculture officials are trying to help farmers cope how ever they can, including expanding the New York State Grown & Certified marketing campaign to include dairy products.

Chuck Luchsinger’s Silver Spring Farm is more than 100 years old. It has about 240 cows, 200 acres and produces about 600 gallons of milk a day.

“It’s a manageable size," Luchsinger said. "We have enough land to feed them. We have a line of machinery that can harvest all the feed. If we went to a lot more cows, we would have to get more land, buy more machinery. So, we’re just hoping to get more efficient rather than bigger.”

Efficiency makes all the difference in an industry with prices that New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball calls sober. But Ball said he is optimistic.

“When I talk the economists, they’re still very bullish on this region,” Ball said.

That's because Ball said milk prices are stabilizing and inching higher after dropping from a very profitable year in 2014. And he said the New York State Grown & Certified program will help educate local consumers and carry weight around the world.

“I think it’s going to open the doors when we’re able to say that in New York, our products are grown to a higher standard than somewhere else, that’s going to open up opportunities,” Ball said.

The program labels milk products made in New York by producers with safety and environment management plans.

"I think it will help the consumer when they walk through the store, they can look for one symbol and say, I know I'm buying something local from a family farm and I know I'm getting something with food safety standards in place and I can feel good that they behave themselves and are good stewards of the environment," Ball said.

So far, seven dairy processors, representing more than 1,200 farms across the state have signed on.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.