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March 2, 2010

DiNapoli Reports Highlight Agriculture Remains
One of NY’s Key Industries

Sounds Alarm on Crisis in Dairy Industry

Falling milk prices due to the recession have threatened the financial viability of many dairy farms across New York and are hurting the economies of many rural communities, according to a report released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. DiNapoli released the report, and another on the role of agriculture in New York's economy, at an address to the New York Farm Bureau.

"Agriculture is a vital part of New York’s economy," DiNapoli said. "And dairy farms are a vital piece of New York’s agriculture – in many communities, they are the most important part of the local economy. But dairy farming is becoming an endangered species in New York. The lackluster economy is threatening hard-working families and their way of life. We need to make sure generations of toil and enterprise are not lost to this recession. New York needs the dairy industry. And dairy farmers need state and federal support."

The price decline from 2007 to 2009 was the most drastic drop in milk prices ever. Statewide, dairy farms reported losses of $700 million for 2009. These losses are forcing some farmers into foreclosure. In Jefferson County, for example, at least 10 farms have closed since January 2009, resulting in a loss of $27 million in annual income in the county.

Dairy industry losses in communities have a ripple effect, negatively impacting local businesses that provide supplies or services to dairy farms and the property and sales tax base.

In response to the most recent drop in milk prices, Congress authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture to distribute additional aid to the nation’s struggling farmers beyond what is offered by the national milk income loss contract (MILC) program.

However, the amount given to individual farmers did not compensate for the substantial losses. The average farm lost upwards of $10,000 per month in 2009.

A separate report issued by DiNapoli today highlights the significant role agriculture plays in New York’s economy. Agriculture is one of the state’s largest industries while nearly a quarter of the state’s land area is used for farming.

Most farms in New York State are family-owner operated. Farm families have often lived in their communities for generations, contributing to the local economy, preserving open space and serving as stewards of the environment.

Because profit margins are so tight, farmers are increasingly supplementing their income by selling or leasing land for wind power or residential development.

The report highlights several sectors of the agricultural economy:

  • New York is the nation’s third-largest milk producer behind California and Wisconsin with 5,799 dairy farms as of 2007. New York State ranks fourth among all states in the production of cheese, accounting for more than 7 percent of the nation’s supply;
  • Apples are New York’s largest fruit crop, ranking second in the nation in total production. Other leading fruit crops are tart cherries and pears (fourth in the nation), and strawberries (seventh nationwide);
  • New York ranks second in the nation in wine production;
  • Other leading crops are maple syrup, cabbage, sweet corn and pumpkins; and
  • Organic farming is expanding in New York, with 827 certified organic farms in 2008.

For a copy of the report on the crisis in New York’s dairy industry, go to:

For a copy of the report on the role of agriculture in New York State’s economy, go to:


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