New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to meet milk demands from yogurt plants in the state by allowing smaller dairies to add up to 50 percent more cows without a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit.

The announcement was made Wednesday at the state’s first Yogurt Summit.

Plans will allow dairies with 300 cows or less to operate without a CAFO permit, raising the limit from 200 cows.

“Changing those CAFO regs, I think, is going to send a different signal that we are serious about this and we get it, and we get the role of the state,” Cuomo told the Albany Journal News.

The permit change encourages state dairies to expand herds, producing more milk to meet the needs of the 49 yogurt plants in New York.

In a closing statement at the summit, Cuomo called the expanding yogurt market one of the best private sector market opportunities upstate New York has had in the last 40 years.

Fage and Chobani have increased production, requiring more milk. A joint venture involving PepsiCo will add a new yogurt manufacturing facility in Genesee County.

Cuomo said he wants New York to become the yogurt capital of the U.S. Read more.

Environmental groups respond

Following Cuomo’s announcement to allow dairies to expand, environmental groups released a statement saying the move will weaken clean water protection standards. The Environmental Advocates of New York, Environment New York, Riverkeeper, Inc., Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Waterkeeper Alliance collectively released the following statement:

“As organizations committed to protecting and restoring New York’s rivers, lakes and streams, we are very concerned by the announcement today that New York State will weaken state environmental protections put in place to protect public health, safety and the environment by exempting medium sized industrial farms from its CAFO permit program. As a result, these farms will be allowed to grow from 200 to 299 cows without requiring the installation of structural controls such as waste storage facilities and water diversions essential to protecting the State’s waters from being contaminated with animal waste.

Just this year the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reaffirmed the need for mandatory permitting of industrial farms to protect water quality: ‘a non‐regulatory approach, for a sector that has a significant pollution potential (the smallest medium CAFO has the pollution potential of a major sewage treatment plant), is neither credible nor effective.’

Agriculture is a fundamental piece of the state’s vibrant economy and plays a vital role in environmental protection by providing local food sources and conserving open space.  Our groups have a shared goal of protecting and promoting dairy farming in New York.  We believe that alternatives to the proposed regulatory roll-back that will provide both an economic and environmental benefit to the state and its dairy farmers must be considered before throwing away the standards New Yorkers fought for decades to put in place to protect the waters we use for fishing, swimming and drinking.

We look forward to engaging in an open dialogue with New York State through a full environmental review of the governor’s proposal and to developing a solution that supports the dairy industry with the resources they need to protect the clean water on which we all depend.”