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New York Picks Greek Yogurt Over Clean Water

Eric Justian
| Wednesday August 7th, 2013 | 1 Comment

cowsI don’t get the Greek yogurt craze. Sure, I like Greek yogurt as much as the next guy. It’s pretty good. But it’s not ”add another billion pounds of lightly regulated cow manure into our water supply” good. But the State of New York would disagree.

Hosting the first-ever statewide Yogurt Summit, Governor Cuomo of New York brought industry leaders, dairy farmers and “stakeholders” together to come up with ways to help New York’s yogurt biz grow to meet the surging demand for Greek yogurt. As it turns out, that delicious, creamy Greek yogurt takes three times as much milk to produce the same volume as good old classic yogurt. No wonder it’s so good, eh?

On one hand, it’s great that Cuomo is focused on growing diverse industries and jobs in his state. On the other hand, the solution the summit came to basically amounted to “let dairy farmers dump more cow manure into our water with fewer regulations.”

Based on the summit, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation rewrote the definition of a “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)”, more commonly known as a “factory farm.” The change allowed farmers to have larger herds before they need to get special permits or follow tighter waste dumping regulations. The herd threshold went from a maximum of 200 cows to a maximum of 300 cows. A 50 percent increase in the number of cows before tighter regulations need to be followed.

This change will account for a billion extra pounds of lightly regulated cow manure dumping in the great state of New York, which endangers the water quality in rural communities.

Environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Earthjustice are suing the state for violating the Clean Water Act and its own laws:

By deregulating dairy CAFOs with between 200 and 299 mature dairy cows, NYSDEC has shirked the duty imposed upon it by the Legislature ‘[t]o conserve, improve and  protect New York’s natural resources and environment,’ and usurped the legislative prerogative to determine policy regarding the economic interests of the state.

What is technically referred to as “wet manure,” in addition to having a really nasty sounding name, comes with a litany of pollutants for rural water supplies. This animal waste is high in nitrogen and phosphorous which causes algae blooms and low oxygen dead zones, killing fish and other aquatic critters and harming the whole ecosystem. It also contains “solids” which includes but is not limited to “hair, feathers and animal corpses,” which adds to the pathogens and disease-causing bacteria and viruses in the deregulated manure, all of which can get into the human-consumed water supply. Blech.

Is there any particular reason Greek yogurt demand can’t be met through responsible farming regulations? Or is this simply a not-well-thought-out scramble to capture as much of the Greek yogurt share as quickly as possible by removing pesky obstructions like consideration for clean water for rural communities?

[Image Credit -  Hunter-Desportes - Source]


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  • I am holier than thou

    We should all only eat grass, and only the species that other animals won’t eat!