NOFA-NY Offers $5,000 Grants and Outreach to NY Organic Dairy Farmers

Barn and field at sunset

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) has received funding from the New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI) and the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center (NE DBIC) to administer non-competitive grants of $5,000 per organic dairy farm and provide on-farm visits and organic technical information to New York organic dairy producers who may have been affected by one of the largest organic dairy contract terminations in recent years. With NYFVI and NE DBIC support, NOFA-NY has been in contact with over 80 farms and is processing grant requests from dozens of farmers who need assistance in upgrading their dairy operations in order to get or keep a contract. 

This funding has meant that NOFA-NY Organic Dairy Educator Linda Young is able to meet with farm operators on their farms to assess their eligibility for our grant program, as well as review their farm systems for other needs such as quality improvement information or access to larger grants. The program works to identify barriers to success and connect farms with additional resources and support in planning on-farm improvements. 

NOFA-NY is sub-awarding funds through the end of 2022 to any New York organic dairy farm that lost its hauling/processing contract in 2021. Farms do not need to be certified by NOFA-NY. The grants may be used to reimburse farms for materials and upgrades required to stay in business and find a new contract. Eligible farms are encouraged to apply now: 

2021 Contract Terminations

In August 2021, Horizon Organic, a Danone brand, announced its decision to terminate 89 contracts with small organic dairy producers across the Northeast, including 46 in New York State. Final terminations will occur by Feb. 2023. Also in 2021, Maple Hill Creamery announced terminations of 46 contracts with producers throughout the state. In total, Horizon Organic and Maple Hill Creamery dropped 135 farms in the Northeast region in 2021, one of the largest organic dairy farm terminations in the Northeast in recent years. According to USDA, There are about 750 organic dairy operations in New York (~400 certified by NOFA-NY), and it is the smaller dairies in remote locations that have been most affected by these cancellations.

USDA Recommendations

In the fall of 2021, the Northeast Dairy Task Force was formed, representing 27 organizations including state departments of agriculture, university extension, organic processors, organic associations (including NOFA-NY, NOFA-VT, MOFGA, NODPA, OFA, and NOFA-NH), farm technical assistance providers, and subject matter experts. The Task Force met several times over 8 weeks and in December 2021 produced a set of comprehensive recommendations to USDA for supporting the region’s dairy sector. 

One specific result of these recommendations was that in the Spring of 2022, USDA committed funds to the NE DBIC for non-competitive direct farmer grants to assist farms’ facilities upgrades and milk quality improvements in order to obtain another contract to ship milk. These funds have been administered through sub-grants by NOFA-VT, MOFGA, and NOFA-NY.

During the latter half of 2022, Maple Hill actually began re-signing contracts with producers previously dropped due to a significant increase in demand for grass-fed milk. Other processors, notably Organic Valley and Stonyfield have also stepped up to the plate to take on producers.

NOFA-NY Organic Dairy Producer Resources

NOFA-NY has visited over 50 farms, most of which are in central and northern New York where the contract terminations occurred, and represent farms milking 10 cows to several hundred. However, we are well aware that all of our dairy farmers are facing significant obstacles. We encourage dairy farmers to look at the NOFA-NY dairy resources page for business and personal support, as well as other funding opportunities including other direct-to-farmer grants to all dairy farmers through the NE DBIC, and the John May Farm Safety Fund which provides matching funds to small and mid-sized farm operations for repairs and upgrades that make for a safer workplace. 

Founded in 1983, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) is the premier statewide organization growing a strong regenerative organic agriculture movement in New York State and is part of a regional network of seven Northeast Organic Farming Associations. NOFA-NY provides education and assistance to local organic and regenerative farmers; connects consumers with organic and regenerative farmers; advocates policies that support a sustainable and fair food and farm system at both the state and federal levels; and is the largest USDA-accredited organic certifier in New York, certifying nearly 1,100 organic operations in the state.

New York State is a top US producer of organic products, ranking third in the number of organic farms nationwide, with over 1,900 organic certified entities statewide. With one of the biggest marketplaces in the world in the New York City metropolitan region, New York participates in a large portion of the over $52 billion in organic sales nationwide. In 2019, New York organic farmgate sales were nearly $300 million.

Photo by Sparks Johnson on Unsplash