Greek Yogurt Popularity Is Good News For New York Dairy Farmers

Legislative Column from Assemblyman Marc W. Butler (R,C,I-Newport)
September 4, 2012

It’s amazing to think that something like Greek-style yogurt would take New York’s dairy industry to a whole new level in terms of production and job growth. Personally, we love Greek yogurt in my family, my grandkids especially. And who would have thought that this simple dairy product would become so important to us?

In New York, roughly 1,500 people are employed by Greek yogurt producers who provide nearly 70 percent of the nation’s supply, worth about $4.2 billion. Even here upstate, our very own Fage USA in Johnstown accounts for 14 percent of the market. This is a big deal for New York.

I’m excited by Fage USA’s plans for expansion, which will invest $115 million in capital and add about 150 more jobs right here. This Johnstown plant, Fage’s American home, began by producing 26 million pounds of yogurt annually, now it makes 123 million pounds. The expansion would help them ramp up production to 352 million pounds.

Milk production and sales are high, at nearly $2 billion. In about five years, yogurt production has grown by 60 percent, and the New York Farm Bureau estimates that for New York dairy farmers to keep up with demand, milk production has to grow by 15 percent. This means New York would need about 91,500 additional dairy cows. Cornell Cooperative Extension expects the Greek yogurt craze to become more than just another fad, as the United States consumption, per capita, still has room to grow.

I also commend Gov. Andrew Cuomo for acknowledging the impact the yogurt industry has on our economy and for hosting the New York State Yogurt Summit recently to explore ways to help our farming communities.

Greek yogurt production is proving to be a multiplier in our economy. It takes about three pounds of milk to make the protein-rich yogurt – two more pounds than conventional yogurt – which these companies purchase from local farmers. This means there is an increased need for milk tanks and trucks for transport, manufacturing equipment and workers to keep the high-demand production running smoothly.

To keep up with this scale of production, New York State and the federal government will have to work closely together. Much of what impacts dairy farmers in New York are federal policies like the dairy price market. What we can do here in New York is reduce red tape and taxes to maximize the already limited profit margin of dairy farmers’ milk sales.

This is truly an exciting time for New York agriculture and upstate rural job growth. If you have ideas on how to improve our state’s agriculture and economy, please share them with me. I can be reached at either my Johnstown office at 518-762-6486 or my Herkimer office 315-866-1632. You also may send your ideas to me at