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Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Upstate Niagara Official: The region's dairy farmers ready to meet increased demand

With the planned yogurt plants for Alpina and PepsiCo in Batavia, there's nothing but opportunity ahead for regional dairy farmers, according to Kim Pickard-Dudley, general manager of the membership division of Upstate Niagara Cooperative.

More yogurt means more milk and farmers are ready to meet the demand, Pickard-Dudley said.

"We're obviously excited for this opportunity for farmers," Pickard-Dudley said.

Upstate built its own yogurt plant in West Seneca in 2006 and a year ago purchased a 100-year-old plant in Watertown.

Alpina and PepsiCo have both broken ground on sites in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, though PepsiCo has yet to reach a purchase agreement with the GCEDC (negotiations are, we hear, currently going on at the Albany level) for the 81-acre parcel. 

Regional farmers will be able to adjust capacity to meet all the demand for milk to make yogurt, Pickard-Dudley said.

Whether that milk comes through Upstate or yogurt manufacturers go directly to farmers is unknown at this time, Pickard-Dudley.

"Farmers are always up for a challenge for meeting new demands on supply," Pickard-Dudley said.

Pickard-Dudley was in Batavia at the O-AT-KA offices on Monday to meet with Rep. Kathy Hochul, who discussed with Upstate representatives her bill to create a guest worker program to assist New York's agricultural industry.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Expert: Batavia poised to become yogurt capital of Northeast

Project Wave -- which we now know is being pursued by PepsiCo -- will be the largest yogurt plant in North America, according to an industry expert with more than 15 years in the field.

Jeff Stephen, a consultant with Productive Partners, said in an interview today that what Pepsi is planning is impressive and will be a huge benefit to the community and the local dairy industry.

"Pepsi isn't the kind of company that is going to go anywhere," Stephen said. "They're not going to cut back because of any shortage of money. This is everything you could ask for in a local community. They are going to be successful. Not everything will go to plan, but they will succeed. This is a major global commitment."

Based on industry reports, Pepsi wants to get into the yogurt business. The multinational firm is planning a merger of sorts with Theo Muller Group, a German company that makes seven different yogurt products.

Stephen said companies for years have been trying to crack the U.S. yogurt market in the belief that American consumers don't buy as much yogurt as they should. Europeans consume five or six times as much yogurt as Americans, Stephen said.

The key to the U.S. yogurt market, Stephen said, is to make yogurt with more body and texture, a yogurt that can be consumed as a meal or a key ingredient in a meal. Growth in the U.S. yogurt market has been thwarted, Stephen said, because too much of the product available in the U.S. is what Stephen called "crappy dessert yogurt."

The key to the U.S. market is Greek yogurt, which has more flavor, is more filling and has greater nutritional value.

That's the kind of yogurt that will be the basis of Alpina's product line. Alpina was the first big signing for Genesee County Economic Development Center in the new ag park. Alpina is building an initially 10,000-square-foot facility that will employ 50 people.

Pepsi's plans begin with a 300,000-square-foot facility that will employ 180 people, with a build out by 2033 of 16 production lines and 600 employees.

There is no yogurt plant in North America that's close to that size, Stephen said.

When Stephen saw what was being planned for Project Wave, as first reported on The Batavian, he figured Pepsi, whose plans with Theo Muller had already been reported by the Wall Street Journal, was a likely prospect for the property. A project of that size would almost certainly be a plant for a large corporation moving into a new product line. 

The deal bringing Pepsi to Batavia hasn't been signed yet, but construction has begun on the facility and Pepsi is clearly eager to get its new product to market by 2013.

Stephen just hopes Pepsi is planning a yogurt line based on Greek yogurt and not "crappy dessert yogurt," which he doesn't think will help Pepsi or other yogurt makers expand the U.S. market.

Whatever Pepsi does, he doesn't see the Pepsi products competing directly with Alpina, which will be producing a slightly higher end yogurt and going after niche markets.

Pepsi's main competitors will be Dannon and Yoplait.

Dannon, based in White Planes, is a pure dairy company and between its two main brands, controls about 38 percent of the yogurt market. Yoplait, owned by General Mills, has another 6 percent. The rest of the market is shared by regional players and store brands, some of which, Stephen said, are very good.

Another potential local player in the yogurt market is O-AT-KA Milk Products, which is owned by Upstate Niagara Cooperative. 

The rumor is that a current expansion at O-AT-KA is for the local plant to start making yogurt ingredients.

It's unknown who the ingredients will be sold to, but Upstate purchased a 100-year-old, one-line yogurt plant in Watertown about a year ago.

Charitably, Stephen said, the Watertown plant is "historic," but it shows Upstate's intention to move into the yogurt business.

Whatever product Pepsi brings to market, Stephen said, will be thoroughly researched and well marketed.

"I have very high respect for Pepsi," Stephen said. "They are efficient in manufacturing and production and very good marketers. They are not the kind of company that gives up."

It's unknown whether Pepsi will purchase its dairy products through O-AT-KA or directly from farmers (those are discussions that probably haven't even taken place yet, Stephen said), but as for farmers, Stephen said they will be happy working with Pepsi.

Pepsi, he said, takes an approach that being easy to work with helps lower costs.

"I think the farmers will want to do business with them," he said.

As for milk supply, the market will probably be shaken up for awhile initially, but the big farmers have little trouble adding capacity (more cows) and there should be an ample milk supply in Western New York to meet the needs of Pepsi, Alpina and O-AT-KA, and any other players that enter the market at the ag park.

Perhaps the worst news for other dairy businesses, Stephen said, is that if Pepsi wants to hire an employee, they will hire that employee. They will spend what it takes, he said, to get the best employees, especially in key positions.

But it's a great pool of employees that is attracting Pepsi to Batavia, Stephen said.

For years, he's been telling dairy companies to stop manufacturing in places like Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia because the standard of living is so much better in smaller communities.

Employees can actually afford to buy a house in a place like Batavia. That isn't true in larger population centers. And, Stephen said, the schools are good, and that's attractive to a major employer.

"You have a pretty high quality of life," Stephen said. "It's a pretty attractive place to put people who are going to work for you for a long time."

Monday, May 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm

MILKER

post by Sarah Noble Moag in agriculture, dairy, local, teamwork, technology, working with animals

Company Name

Noblehurst Farms Inc.

Job Type

Full-Time

Local dairy farm looking for motivated and responsible men and women to milk dairy cows. Progressive farm, modern equipment and technologies, proven protocols, team oriented work environment, opportunity for advancement, competitive wages and benefits plus quality incentives, milker and animal handling training provided. No housing available. This job is a fast-paced, physical job.  Full-Time shifts (8 hours in length) now available near Pavilion. Only serious inquiries please. Must be 18 years old. Previous milking experience not necessary. Call Noblehurst Farms 585-584-3122 ask for Sarah or Chris.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Upstate milk and snack dip named tastiest in New York

The best-tasting milk and dip in New York State comes from Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc.’s plants in Rochester and West Seneca, respectively. Genesee County milk suppliers participate in the co-op.

Cornell University’s Department of Food Science honored the cooperative’s Upstate Farms Milk and Bison Creamy Dill Dip products at the New York State Fair’s Dairy Day on Aug. 31.

Company representatives were invited to take home the Gold Medallion, accompanied by the Blue Ribbon. Ken Voelker, director of marketing at Upstate Niagara Cooperative pointed out that “Winning the gold reflects our member farmers’ commitment to produce the best milk and dairy products possible. We look forward to continually enhancing the quality of the products that we deliver throughout the U.S.” 

Bison Creamy Dill Dip, manufactured by Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc., is one of the company’s newest dip flavors, joining its popular flavor line-up. All Bison® dips are made with fresh sour cream and include flavors like French Onion, Southwestern Chipotle, Creamy Ranch, Roasted Garlic & Parmesan, and Reduced Fat French Onion.

Cornell University’s Department of Food and Science conducted the tests. Analysis focused on appearance, mouth feel and overall taste. The annual selection is a part of the New York State Quality Improvement and enjoys participation from nearly all commercial dairy producers in New York.   
   
Upstate Niagara Cooperative (formerly Upstate Farms) is owned and operated by a close-knit family of over 390 local dairy-farm families who care deeply about quality and freshness. The cooperative has been supplying a wide variety of fresh, high-quality dairy products under the Upstate Farms, Bison and Intense brands, for more than 40 years.

Friday, August 28, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Byron dairy farmer tells Sen. Gillibrand like it is

post by Billie Owens in batavia, agriculture, byron, dairy, Gillibrand

Here's the verbatim testimony of Byron dairy farmer Robin Denniston-Keller given at the Senate hearing on the dairy industry held at GCC on Thursday.

It's titled "Legislative Responses to the Dairy Crisis: Reforming the Pricing Structure."

"...I am a proud American dairy farmer. My husband and I milk 100 Jersey cows and take care of another 100 young stock on our farm 10 minutes northeast of here in Byron, New York. It’s a privilege and honor to be asked to speak today.

"I’m not an economist or an expert on milk pricing, but I do feel I have common sense and a strong work ethic, which have served me well so far in life. I milk my own cows every day, and being up to my elbows in the results of lactation and excretion (generally not at the same time!) gives me a certain sense of reality!

Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Dairy industry gives NY senator an earful

post by Billie Owens in batavia, agriculture, dairy, GCC, genesee county, Hillibrand

BATAVIA, NY -- About 200 people attended a formal Senate hearing this afternoon at Genesee Community College focused on a dairy industry in crisis and possible solutions.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand heard testimony from producers and processors, economists and dairy industry experts. At the end of the two-hour hearing, which started about a half hour late, she said she was taking some good ideas back to Washington to use in developing long-term fixes.

The dairy industry is hard hit by: a pricing structure that's based on only 2 percent of the industry's products: higher fuel and feed costs; trade inequities; the expense of meeting increased regulations and standards not required by international competitors; and by a swiftly fluctuating market -- stemming from changing demands, the impact of product perishibility and supply -- plus many other factors.

It's a tough business and it requires a certain youthfulness to do the heavy physical labor, 365-days-a-year, with a liklihood of losing money at the end of the year instead of making a profit.

One of the surest ways of increasing the health of the dairy industry, is to increase consumer demand for its products. Several spoke in favor of the federal government doing more to help out, such as buying more milk for school breakfast programs, stocking up food banks with cheese or buying powdered milk for women and infant nutrition programs. In other words, use more Department of Agriculture money going toward food purchases anyway to beef up dairy consumption.

To compete with a ever-increasing variety of thirst-quenching beverages, the dairy industry needs to develop new products and boost the flavor, "mouth feel," and nutrition of milk without adding fat or calories.

They also called for leveling the field when it comes to trade. Why does an American dairy farmer have to pay a 15-cent per-hundred-weight fee for marketing and promotion, when the foreign importer does not yet still enjoys the benefits?

One good way to boost oversees consumption is to sell more solid milk product, which is in great demand worldwide. But more production plants are needed. Yet a capital expansion program for Batavia has been on hold since 2005 pending USDA approvals.

Rep. Eric Massa said he'll enlist his colleagues to pressure the USDA to speed things up if Kim Pickard-Dudley drafts him a letter on why the capital expansion program is critical for Western New York. She spoke as a representative of the farmer-owned Upstate Niagara Co-op.

Robert Church advocated "market-driven solutions" and federalizing uniform industry standards, so states like California, do not have unfair advantage over Western New York's dairy industry. He's herd manager for Patterson Farms, a 980-cow operation west of Auburn.

"You said one-size-fits-all," Massa told Church. "My job is to protect New York. That's what I'm here to do."

The problems faced by New Mexico, California or Arizona dairies, compared to here, are vastly different because their circumstances are different, Massa said, about as different in fact as Mars is from Pluto.

"California cows are happy cows," so goes the marketing slogan, but Massa said here it's more like "New York cows are really angry cows."

Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 6:59 pm

U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Hearing at GCC

post by Bea McManis in dairy, Gillibrand, Lee, Massa, price reform

milk2.jpgCongressman Massa, Senator Gillibrand, and Congressman Lee listened to two panels.  The first Producers and Processors, the second consisted of Economists and Experts.

The best lines of the day....Congressman Massa, after learning that each NY dairy farmer must contribute to a national promotion fund, part of which is used by the State of California to promote their California Happy Cow ads in New York State. Fifteen cents per hundredweight is levied on all milk marketed commercially in NYS.

He asked, "Why can't we produce ads for...let's say... New York Happy Yankee Cows, and play them in California?".

When told that it is tradition that  dairy farmers' have responsibility to transport milk to the processor...just like lobster fisherman must arrange transportation of their catch from the ship to the cannery.

Congressman Massa mused, "I don't know how to milk a lobster."

Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 9:23 am

Lamb Farm

post by Bea McManis in agriculture, dairy, local business

With all this talk about Lamb Farm, I went hunting and found their website.

It is well worth the time to look through it all.  Make sure you click on the videos of the clipper and the milking merry go round.

Fascinating.

http://lambfarmsinc.net/index.html

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 7:27 pm

County Legislature recognizes Dairy Month

post by Howard Owens in dairy, genesee county legislature

dairy_proclamation.jpg

County Legislator Charles Zambito, Elba, presents a proclamation in honor of dairy month to Dairy Princes Mackenzie Reynolds and Eric Zuber.  Following the proclamation, ice cream sandwiches, an annual tradition, were handed out to every person in the chamber. Um, good.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Assemblyman Steve Hawley Celebrates NYS Dairy Day

post by Steve Hawley in dairy, farm, NY Farm Bureau, steve hawley

 

HAWLEY CELEBRATES NYS DAIRY DAY

CALLS ON GOVERNOR & SENATE TO “VOTE NO”
ON “FARM DEATH BILL”

 

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) today joined Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R, C, I – Canandaigua), bipartisan members of the State Legislature, representatives from the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, New York Farm Bureau, New York Grange, Northeast Dairy Foods, and American Dairy Association, along with local New York State farmers in celebration and recognition of New York State Dairy Day. 

 

Additionally, the coalition discussed the negative impacts of Assembly Bill 1867, dubbed the “Farm Death Bill” and called on the State Senate and Governor to “vote no” on the bill, which was passed by the Assembly last evening.

 

Hawley stated, “I was a third generation family farmer and I know firsthand how difficult it is to run a farm successfully.  Right now farmers are losing money on every gallon of milk, every pound of grain, because production costs here are so high.  We are in the midst of one of the worst recessions in decades and now is not the time to add additional burdens on our farmers.”

 

The Assemblyman continued, “This onerous bill, if passed into law, will be the death of New York State’s farms.  Farming is not just a job, it is a way of life and I want to keep that quality of life around for many more generations.”

 

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