We had some fun last week in Albany at the annual Dairy Day. One newspaper quipped "Dairy Day ups Cheese Intake in the Well of the LOB (Legislative Office Building)." This was the case, though whether the Times Union meant this in more ways than one is up to the reader to decide. While mascots and celebrities did traverse crowds, it was clear we were celebrating what has become a fun and important tradition in Albany: Dairy Day.
Dairy Day is a representation of the value of milk and agriculture in this state. These are good reminders, especially for downstate lawmakers who do not have the privilege to represent agricultural districts in the Legislature, yet they vote on legislation that will determine the future of agriculture. I am reminded when I make the drive from Albany to home the value of dairy farming and then again, when I talk to people in the district who are either feed producers for cows or dairy farmers themselves. I take my hat off to the men and women who run these farms--reliant on the elements and milking cows sometimes up to three times a day.
Milk and agriculture create jobs, not just on the farm where there are various tasks to maintain every day but through other businesses, such as milk packaging companies and value-added products. Cows not only produce fluid milk, but potential. In many cases, the co-ops sell to local milk bottlers such as Kraft, Byrne and Dairylea. However, value-added products are where more profits have been realized given the general downturn of the fluid milk market. Whether milk travels to Heluva Good in Sodus or at the Chobani Greek Yogurt plant in Greece, NY, that milk is being converted into cheese, ice cream, yogurt, butter, sour cream and anything else dairy. Some milk even goes to make wine ice cream.
The importance of dairy also can be seen at the New York State fair. Our state creates a butter sculpture that makes national headlines and the reason some come to the fair. It is always an impressive sight. Last year, the sculpture weighed 800 pounds and depicted a scene from a school lunch room. By the way, you need 2,000 pounds of milk to produce the butter sculpture.
According to the State's Department of Agriculture and Market's website, milk is New Yorkís leading agricultural product and is produced all across the state. Milk sales account for one-half of total agricultural receipts. Production in 2010 was 12.7 billion pounds with a preliminary value of $2.2 billion.
As of the last Agricultural Census, there are 5,700 dairy farms in New York and the Empire State is the nationís third largest milk producer and fourth largest cheese producer, accounting for more than seven percent of the nationís cheese; ranked third in the production of Italian and mozzarella cheeses, accounting for nearly 10 percent of all production of Italian cheese in the nation; and ranked first in cream, cottage cheese, low-fat cottage cheese and sour cream production.
June is Dairy Month, an annual tradition begun in 1937 to celebrate the dairy industry. June Dairy Month has continued to evolve over the years and entire communities across the country, both rural and urban, have embraced it. The cooperation between farmers and other community members are really the basis of what June Dairy Month is all about - celebrating and using milk and milk products.
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