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Proposal to change delivery of milk to military could hurt central NY dairy

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Sen. Charles Schumer at a Byrne Dairy milk plant in East Syracuse.

A new federal proposal would change the way New York’s military installations get milk, and could hurt local dairy farmers. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is trying to stop it.

Byrne Dairy, which buys milk from more than 250 dairy farms in central new york, delivers more than 250,000 gallons of it to military installations across the state each year. But instead of just directly shipping the milk to bases like Fort Drum, the new plan would send products to a warehouse down south, before coming back up to New York. Byrne Dairy CEO Carl Byrne said he doesn’t want to see that happen.

“To bring all the milk from central New York down to Virginia and then back up to Watertown, just doesn’t make any sense for anybody," Byrne said. "Byrne Dairy can just bottle it here locally and bring it up to Watertown.”

The idea by the Defense Commissary Agency is to try to be more efficient by buying bigger amounts and using a warehouse, which makes sense for nonperishable goods, Schumer said, but not, he said, for perishable items like milk.

“I think when I present it to the top staff of the military they will see how dumb it is,” Schumer said. "We have to stop this because it would really hurt central New York."

Plus, Byrne Dairy would be forced to compete for larger accounts and incur increased shipping costs, which they might not be able to do.

“Maybe they can’t supply milk for the whole Northeast," Schumer said. "It would have the big boys come in. But the big boys don’t produce the best milk and they don’t produce it at the best price.”

Right now, it's still just a proposal and a decision won't be made until spring. This comes amidst an already struggling dairy industry for farmers, who have been suffering through four years of low milk prices.

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.