Governor Cuomo convened a “Yogurt Summit” today to discuss how the state might work with dairy farmers and yogurt manufacturers to grow the industrial cluster in upstate NY.  Several actions were reported at the end of it, including a proposed relaxation of DEC regulations on Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).  Currently, farms with 200 or more cows must comply; that threshold is to be raised to 300 or more cows.

Cuomo noted the unique nature of the current opportunity for the state, and encouraged decisive actions.  As reported by Jon Campbell and Joseph Spector for Gannett:

“This is one of the best private sector market opportunities upstate New York has had in 30, 40 years,” Cuomo said in his closing remarks. “I don’t know when we get another one. I really, really don’t. And that entrepreneurial spirit is when you see an opportunity, grab it and make it happen.”

Less widely reported than the proposed loosening of CAFO regulations was an initiative announced by the head of the New York State Power Authority to work with the dairy industry to make it more feasible for dairy farms or groups of dairy farms to sell electricity from methane digestion into the electric grid.  Cuomo indicated that he would have the PSC consider whether laws might need to be proposed to make it more profitable for distributed power production facilities, such as a methane digester, to supply power to the grid.

After the Yogurt Summit, at a press conference, the Governor chose to side-step a question asked as to whether farming and fracking may be incompatible, saying the DEC was still completing their studies.

In the press conference, he stressed the importance of building a positive relationship with the dairy industry, and went on at length about how this industry had felt ignored by state government, and he was happy to be building new and different relationships, breaking with the past.

Cuomo’s decision on hydrofracking regulation is anticipated to be coming soon, following the release of the DEC’s responses to comments on its SGEIS. Farmers make up an important part of the pro-fracking constituency in NYS.  Showing a willingness to amend environmental regulations to aid the dairy industry in capitalizing on the opportunity represented by the growth in yogurt manufacturing might blunt criticism of proposed fracking regulations coming from that quarter.