Initiative under way in N.Y. to aid transition to organic milk

by Staff
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BROOMFIELD, COLO. — Horizon Organic joined with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York to launch an initiative dedicated to helping more state farmers transition to organic, and processing more milk locally, to meet the ever-increasing demand for organic milk in New York and the region.

Horizon Organic currently works with 119 certified organic dairy farmers in the state of New York — more than any other state in the country. Its Horizon Organic Producer Education (HOPE) Program seeks to encourage many more family farmers in New York to convert to organic farming by offering comprehensive support services. Additionally, HOPE underscores the company’s commitment to improve the environment, communities and local economies in which it operates by transitioning as many farms as possible to organic.

Currently, Horizon Organic is working with an additional 79 New York farmers as they make the transition to organic farming, providing technical assistance and personalized organic certification support, including on-site visits from Horizon Organic producer relations team members that live in the regions where farmer partners are located.

The program also provides financial support, which means dairy farmers in transition to organic have the ability to purchase more expensive organic feeds and convert their farms to meet the organic standards.

Coupled with the HOPE program, Horizon Organic is also expanding its organic milk processing capabilities in-state. Horizon Organic is investing $5 million in a planned $18 million expansion of Steuben Foods of Elma, N.Y., that will help increase Horizon Organic’s in-state processing capabilities. This means Horizon Organic may more efficiently process milk produced by local farmers and bring the state’s consumers more organic milk faster.

Last year Ms. Clinton and Horizon Organic co-sponsored an organic dairy roundtable with farmers from Western New York to address the benefits of transitioning to organic. In making the announcement, Horizon Organic and Ms. Clinton said the initiative underscores a continuing collective commitment to strengthening the organic dairy industry, and its opportunities, in the state.

"The New York organic dairy community is vital to Horizon Organic and the national organic milk supply," said Jule Taylor, director of milk supply for Horizon Organic. "Of our more than 300 family farmer partners across the U.S. who supply milk to Horizon Organic, more than a third of them are in the state of New York. But we need to continue to grow that number to supply the region and the nation's ever-increasing demand for organic dairy products. We’d like nothing more than to find more New York partners to fill this demand and enjoy the economic opportunities converting to organic agriculture provides."

Horizon Organic currently infuses an estimated $35 million into New York’s local communities. From its New York farmer partners to local milk haulers, laboratory testing facilities, dairy cooperatives, processing plants, warehouses, brokers and retailers, Horizon Organic manages all of the operations for its New York supply locally.

The organic dairy industry continues to see annual growth rates of 20% to 30%; and without more farmers transitioning to organic, this demand will not be met. Horizon Organic’s New York milk supply currently falls short of meeting the regional demand. It estimates needing an additional 30 million lbs of organic milk annually from New York dairymen to meet the demand.

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