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News stories tagged with "dairy"

An Amish farm in St. Lawrence county. Photo: Sarah Harris
An Amish farm in St. Lawrence county. Photo: Sarah Harris

Amish farmers partner with Agri-Mark

Most of the North Country is losing population, and losing farms. But there's one group that keeps growing: Old Order Amish. They're drawn to the St. Lawrence Valley by the area's cheap, available farmland.

They Amish live an agrarian lifestyle that's more 19th century than 21st century. But in order to support their communities and their culture, the Amish have had to find a place in the local economy, including the dairy industry and an unlikely partnership with Agri-Mark.  Go to full article
Dairy farmer Mike Kiechle of Philadelphia, NY, spreads manure from his tractor. He's the kind of small farmer the new rules are trying to target, but he says he doubts he'll grow his herd bigger. Photo: David Sommerstein
Dairy farmer Mike Kiechle of Philadelphia, NY, spreads manure from his tractor. He's the kind of small farmer the new rules are trying to target, but he says he doubts he'll grow his herd bigger. Photo: David Sommerstein

Will the Greek yogurt boom help dairy farmers?

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced New York will be one of four states in a test program to include Greek yogurt in school lunches.

State officials praised the news - as a new way to induce kids to eat their protein, and as a way to continue to fuel the Greek yogurt boom for New York dairy farmers.

New York has invested millions of dollars in tax breaks into new and expanding yogurt plants. Governor Andrew Cuomo eased environmental rules to encourage 200 cow dairy farms to become 300 cow dairy farms and make more milk.

Experts say New York farmers will have to boost milk production by 15%, or 2 billion pounds each year, to keep up with demand.

So does New York have a milk shortage? And are farmers stepping up it fill it?
David Sommerstein reports the answers lie in cream cheese, Old McDonald, and something called the Chobani Paradox.  Go to full article
Sandy and Aaron Stauffer with their herd. Photo: Julie Grant
Sandy and Aaron Stauffer with their herd. Photo: Julie Grant

Why milk containers send mixed messages

When you go to the supermarket dairy aisle, there are so many milks to choose from: different brands, fat contents, and prices. One thing they all have in common is a label that says something like "our farmers pledge they do not inject their cows with artificial growth hormone." The containers also state that there's no difference in the milk from cows with or without those hormones.

So what's going on here? Why are our milk containers sending mixed messages? And what does it mean for North Country dairy farms that use growth hormones on their cows?  Go to full article
Hispanic men and women - some of them quite young - provide labor illegally on many dairy farms. Photo: David Sommerstein
Hispanic men and women - some of them quite young - provide labor illegally on many dairy farms. Photo: David Sommerstein

Dairy farmers and Hispanic workers in legal limbo

The U.S. Senate passed its version of immigration reform Thursday. But the bill's future in the House is highly uncertain. Many conservatives oppose citizenship for those who are in the country illegally.

Others want to take up immigration reform piece by piece, rather than attempt a comprehensive bill like the Senate's.

With Congress wrestling with a new strategy for immigration policy, we thought it would be a good time to review the legal situation on many New York and Vermont dairy farms.

Several thousand undocumented immigrants, mostly Latino, work on those farms. They pay social security and other federal taxes because they give their employers false social security numbers when they're hired.

Farmers are not required to prove their workers are legal. In fact, they can be sued for discrimination if they challenge them.

In 2006, David Sommerstein explored this Catch-22. Here's a part of that story.  Go to full article
Juan Carlos (left) lives in a converted farm office in the barn of this dairy farm. He and Freddy want to be able to go home and come back to work on dairy farms here. Photo: David Sommerstein
Juan Carlos (left) lives in a converted farm office in the barn of this dairy farm. He and Freddy want to be able to go home and come back to work on dairy farms here. Photo: David Sommerstein

What undocumented dairy workers think of immigration reform

Dairy farmers - and their workers - have a lot at stake in the immigration debate underway in Washington.

A survey by Cornell University found that 2,600 Spanish-speaking people work on New York dairy farms. Of them, two thirds or more are here illegally. That's in part because there's no visa program for the kind of year-round workers dairy farms need.

The Senate's reform plan offers dairy farms new options for a legal supply of immigrant labor.

Undocumented Latino workers are scattered on bunches of dairy farms in the North Country. David Sommerstein spoke with some of them to see what they think of immigration reform.  Go to full article
Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/torebelxtguy/7212923168/">Chris Barker</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: Chris Barker, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Chobani responds to toxic whey concerns

New York-based Greek yogurt maker Chobani is responding to criticisms that its process creates large amounts of toxic waste.

There's been a media hub-bub since last week about the so-called dark side of the two-billion dollar Greek yogurt industry.  Go to full article
Farmer John Peck has a moment with a two-month-old calf on his Peck Homestead Farm in Champion, in Jefferson County. Photo: Joanna Richards
Farmer John Peck has a moment with a two-month-old calf on his Peck Homestead Farm in Champion, in Jefferson County. Photo: Joanna Richards

Farmers' property taxes rise as land values increase

Agriculture is one of the most dynamic and innovative economic sectors in New York state. All this week, the Innovation Trail team is reporting on some of the current challenges and opportunities facing upstate farmers.

One of those challenges is property taxes. Agriculture is a land-intensive industry, so rising property taxes can mean much higher costs for farmers. And taxes have been rising, thanks mostly to increases in the production value of farmland.  Go to full article
Hispanic men and women - some of them quite young - provide labor illegally on many dairy farms. Photo: David Sommerstein
Hispanic men and women - some of them quite young - provide labor illegally on many dairy farms. Photo: David Sommerstein

Undocumented farmworkers weigh benefits against risks

New York's farms employ about 60,000 people and no one knows how many of those workers are here illegally. According to one estimate, 70 percent of the state's agricultural workforce is undocumented.
Some stay for years, long enough to raise a family. But it's risky.  Go to full article
Dairy farmer Mike Kiechle of Philadelphia, NY, spreads manure from his tractor. He's the kind of small farmer the new rules are trying to target, but he says he doubts he'll grow his herd bigger. Photo: David Sommerstein
Dairy farmer Mike Kiechle of Philadelphia, NY, spreads manure from his tractor. He's the kind of small farmer the new rules are trying to target, but he says he doubts he'll grow his herd bigger. Photo: David Sommerstein

Will easing dairy manure rules do much at all?

Last month, Governor Cuomo carried through on a promise he made to dairy farmers, loosening environmental regulations for small farms.

Right now, a farm with 200 cows or more has to prepare detailed and costly manure management plans. Starting this week, that threshold will be bumped up to 300 cows.

Speaking at last summer's Yogurt Summit, Agriculture Commissioner Darrel Aubertine said the change would help boost milk production to meet demand fueled by Greek yogurt's popularity. "Simply put," said Aubertine, "this will make it much easier for small farms to grow."

North Country lawmakers and the state Farm Bureau praised the rule change. But environmental groups say more unregulated manure means more farm runoff in rivers and streams. It remains a big question whether the change will do much of anything at all - to the environment or for the economy.  Go to full article
John Ferry, co-owner of Milk Street Dairy in Tylerville, in Jefferson County, shows off his new dairy barn. Photo: Joanna Richards
John Ferry, co-owner of Milk Street Dairy in Tylerville, in Jefferson County, shows off his new dairy barn. Photo: Joanna Richards

National Grid power upgrade grant helps Jefferson County dairy farm expand

A Tylerville dairy farm, in Jefferson County, is growing, in part thanks to help from National Grid. The company awarded the farm a grant of $50,000 to increase its access to electricity.  Go to full article

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