New York dairy farmers plan to keep farming, expand operations in future


ALBANY, N.Y. – The vast majority of dairy farm operators in all areas of New York state plan to maintain or expand their dairy herds, and are prepared to keep their land in farming through the next generation, according to the results of a department of agriculture survey.

Based on an analysis of responses from 592 participants, 48 percent of New York’s dairy farm operations indicate that they plan to expand their herds in the near future, while 45 percent expect to maintain their current scale of operations.

Only seven percent expect to decrease their herds or stop milking cows entirely over the next two years.

Encouraging. “The results from this initial survey are very encouraging for the future of the dairy industry in New York State,” said Nathan Rudgers, commissioner of agriculture.

“It’s important to note that farmers in all farm size categories are planning to expand their milking herds. There are excellent opportunities in this state for larger dairies, and well-run small and mid-sized operations can also provide a good living for a farm family.”

Of those who expect that their farms will continue operating when they leave, 64 percent expect ownership to be retained within their families. Fifty-two percent expect that the farm will go to one of their children and 15 percent expect the farm will be taken over by another relative or someone else now involved in the farming operation.

Leaving industry. For the small percentage of farmers that plan to leave the industry, four out of five dairy farmers reported that they expect that their farms will continue to be operated as commercial farms when they relinquish management control. Three out of five expect that they will continue to operate as dairy farms.

“With provisions of the new Farm Bill helping to assure stable prices, coupled with the optimism expressed by the survey results and the recent upturn in cow numbers,

“I am confident that we will be able to grow the State’s milk production to 15 billion pounds by 2010, and be able to help the dairy industry be more efficient and profitable for our future generations,” Rudgers said.

Interesting findings. Over the past three years, one-third of the state’s current dairy farmers have been approached by someone who wants to rent or purchase their land, either for agricultural or other uses.

Non-farmer interest in buying out dairy farmers was found to be strongest in the Hudson Valley region, although farmers throughout the state have been approached to sell all or part of their land for non-agricultural uses.

“We need to make every effort possible to keep our best farmland in agricultural production,” Rudgers said.

State herd. The latest report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service on the number of dairy cows in New York indicates that the state’s dairy herd has already increased by 9,000 cows since April 2001.

The dairy industry contributes more than half of the state’s agricultural receipts, totaling $1.5 billion last year. Currently, New York State has 7,200 dairy farms with more than 678,000 cows producing 11.9 billion pounds of milk.

The top three dairy counties in the State are Wyoming, St. Lawrence and Jefferson. New York’s dairy industry ranks third in the country, behind California and Wisconsin respectively.

Complete survey results are available on the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets web site at

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