Picente Leads Oneida County Dairy Farmer Forum

More Than 30 Farmers Gather to Discuss Concerns, Find Solutions

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. led a forum Wednesday night in which more than 30 local dairy farmers discussed their concerns over their struggling industry and searched for ways to find solutions.

Following up on a pledge made during his 2018 State of the County Address in March, Picente gathered dairy farmers for the two-hour roundtable discussion at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Oriskany.

Several issues were discussed during the lively and productive forum, which in addition to local dairy farmers, also included members of the Oneida County Board of Legislators, Cornell Cooperative Extension and local dairy industry representatives, including:

  • The overabundance of milk being produced and the low price it is yielding.
  • The impact of years of negative information being circulated about the nutritional benefits of whole milk.
  • The elimination of whole milk from schools.
  • Lack of regional milk processing options.
  • Increasing fuel costs hindering farm operation.
  • Lack of local labor force.
  • The impending New York State increase to minimum wage.

“Agriculture is the largest industry in Oneida County and the main driver of our economy,” Picente said. “While dairy farms make up nearly 25 percent of the county’s land mass, the more than 200 dairy farms that milk about 18,000 cows and employ 500 people are dwindling due to the current industry crisis. This cannot continue. Our dairy farms are an asset that must be preserved at all cost and it is my hope that this Diary Farmer Forum was the first step toward that goal. I pledge to do all I can at a county level to ease the burden of these farmers and advocate for them at the state and federal level where unnecessary and unfair regulations and limitations are stifling their ability to succeed and thrive.”

Based upon the information gathered at the forum, Picente said he is planning to explore several items inducing:

  • Milk marketing opportunities.
  • Installing milk vending machines in county facilities and local school districts.
  • Instituting uniform permitting across the county.
  • Ensuring dairy farmers are taking advantage of the agricultural property tax exemption.
  • Making adjustments to the local farmer co-op structure.

“I applaud County Executive Picente’s effort to bring the dairy farmers of this county together and offer his support in the struggles we are facing,” said Terri DiNitto, whose family owns DiNitto Farms in Marcy. “The main issue dairy farmers face currently is the milk pricing system. It’s a complicated issue, but we always end up with the short end of the stick. Farmers work to feed America because they love their jobs, not because they’re making lots of money. It would be nice to see some profit though instead of constant loss. I know that not much can be done about that at the county level, but it helps to know that we have the support and appreciation of our elected officials.”

“We were pleased to see people from across Oneida County attend the dairy farmer forum hosted by the County Executive,” said Mary Beth McEwen, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County. “Dairy farmers are facing a myriad of challenges: milk prices are low, demand is down and the cost of production is increasing. The forum was an opportunity for people in the dairy industry to come together to share, reflect and encourage one another as they navigate current market conditions. It was an opportunity for farmers to have their voices heard by county leaders who have pledged their support for the agriculture industry in Oneida County. It was great for everyone to see that support and recognize that the County Executive and Board of Legislators are committed to agriculture, are willing to address issues at the county level and are working towards a more prosperous future for all.”