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New York and Idaho: Friendly Dairy Rivals?

June 9, 2014
By: Catherine Merlo, Dairy Today Western and Online Editor google + 
NY   Patterson dairy
Jon Patterson’s dairy, near Auburn, N.Y., milks 1,100 cows on a farm that’s been in the family since 1832.  

They jostle for the No. 3 position in U.S. milk production while dairying in sharply different environments. But dairy producers in the two states share similar concerns.

If you want to imagine a friendly rivalry between two major dairy states, Idaho and New York might be contenders.

The two states regularly vie for third place in U.S. milk production, behind California and Wisconsin. In April, New York out-produced Idaho, churning out 1.135 billion pounds of milk from 5,150 dairies and 615,000 cows. That compares to Idaho’s 1.129 billion pounds from 526 dairy operations and nearly 542,000 dairy cows.

Idaho, however, may be back on top by year’s end, says Rick Naerebout of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association and Independent Milk Producers Cooperative, Inc. "We’re expecting 3% to 4% growth in Idaho milk production in 2014," he says. "We’ll be back to No. 3."

Both Idaho and New York are home to Chobani Greek yogurt plants, although it’s New York that’s the nation’s No. 1 yogurt state, according to a May 27 proclamation by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Still, Idaho has the larger of the two Chobani plants. Its Twin Falls yogurt plant, built in 2012, spans 1 million square feet – twice as large as the New York site -- making it the world’s largest dairy facility.

Chobani 46006 14   Copy
Chobani's yogurt processing plant in Twin Falls, Idaho spans 1 million square feet -- twice as large as its New York facility.

Idaho leads New York in cheese production, occupying third place after Wisconsin and California. In fact, Idaho remains chiefly a cheese processor, while New York has seen a dramatic increase in its processing capacity and dairy product lines over the last few years.

"New York’s dairy industry doesn’t specialize in any one product," says Cornell University dairy economist Andrew Novakovic. "While it’s not No. 1 in any of the major categories, it’s a top producer of many products. Only California rivals it for both size and diversity."

New York’s consumer-intensive dairy products include yogurt, fluid milk, butter, cottage cheese, sour cream, Italian-style cheeses, evaporated milk products such as coffee and energy drinks, and other dry ingredients. New York counts 112 licensed processing plants.

Jon Patterson
New York dairy producer Jon Patterson.

"More plants are coming online all the time," says dairy producer Jon Patterson of Auburn, N.Y. "Anything we can do to increase demand for milk is a good thing."

Patterson himself is a co-owner, along with 25 other local dairy producers, of the new Cayuga Milk Ingredients plant, which just came online last week near Auburn. The plant will produce high-end powders for the global market.

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