State officials are wondering if the answer to the upstate area's economic problems might be found in a yogurt cup. Capital Tonight reporter Nick Reisman has more on the first ever Yogurt Summit.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Growing the upstate economy has stymied New York governors for nearly 40 years. Governor Andrew Cuomo thinks he has one solution: Yogurt. Cuomo wants to make New York the yogurt capital of the country, wedding the state's dairy industry with yogurt companies who do business here.
“I think this is a great economic opportunity especially for Upstate New York where we need economic opportunities desperately,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo on Wednesday hosted what was referred to as the first Yogurt Summit, a meeting of lawmakers, agency officials, business leaders and dairy farmers to determine how the state can boost the niche industry.
“There's lots of differing regulations that were probably made for the right reasons but are hindering growth,” said New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton.
Cuomo used the Yogurt Summit to announce that the state will propose to raise the threshold of cows at a dairy farm from 200 to 300 before the operation is hit with a more complex set of regulations, a move aimed at helping small producers.
One thing hurting some farmers is a proposed 45 percent toll hike for commercial vehicles by the Thruway Authority. It's a hike Cuomo hasn't ruled out, but says he wants the authority to find cost savings before an increase is made.
Cuomo said, “The first question for them is can they find more efficiencies and as you know, we spent 18 months here squeezing water out of a stone when it comes to efficiencies.”
The state has moved aggressively to capitalize on the growth of the yogurt business, featuring Johnstown-based Fage in a $50 million advertising campaign called New York Works.
Chobani, based in New Berlin, relies heavily on New York's dairy industry as well.
“You know, frankly, it's been our consumers that have created the demand and our farmers and employees that have responded,” Chobani CFO James McConaghy said.
Statewide, there are 29 yogurt plants, a number that has doubled over the last decade.