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The 800 pound butter sculpture of a scene off the farm (seen here on the World Dairy Business Blog) is usually the headliner at the Dairy Building of the New York State Fair.But people wait in a long line for another hot item being used to promote New York’s dairy industry: a cup of milk that costs a quarter at the dairy bar.That includes a young James Moore, who says "It’s the best chocolate milk and white milk I’ve ever tasted in my life." "The Chocolate is more chocolaty and it’s nice and cold."The milk is all whole milk, which probably helps. Chocolate milk rules overall. The milk bar serves five cups of chocolate for every cup of plain milk.Mary Ellen Chesbro, agricultural manager for the fair says the total cups served goes up every year. This year, she's hoping the milk bar will top 400,000 cups of milk out this year.The whole operation is run by a task force of volunteers from the dairy industry, from farmers to distributors. The goal is to promote New York dairy – the state’s biggest agricultural product.Seventeen-year old Dale Durant, who serves milk to fairgoers says it can get pretty busy at the counter."Really nice days there’s a lot of people here. Weekends we get really busy."So to get a taste, go when it’s raining.And keep an eye out for the other smart entrepreneurial move in the Dairy building - the Syracuse bakery selling cookies next to the milk bar.

State budget puts more focus on agriculture

The state budget proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls for new efforts to boost sales of New York produce, a change from previous administrations, says a pro-farming group.

The spending plan outlined by Cuomo earlier this month calls for funds to support the wine industry, dairy farmers, apple growers and locally grown hops for beer brewing.

New York is seeing quickly growing craft beer and Greek yogurt industries. To help support those, and the more established local products, Cuomo proposed a $2 million Taste of New York program.

Taste of New York would try to encourage the purchase of New York-made products by, in part, installing tax-free kiosks in highway rest stops that sell local products.

"Because if we market New York made products and let people know what they can buy and sample and taste in their own backyard, they’re going to be excited about wanting to purchase these products; to help out their local farmers," says Steve Ammerman, a spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau, a lobbying and pro-agriculture group.

Cuomo is putting more emphasis on agriculture than recent predecessors, Ammerman says.

"He recognizes that if you grow farms, you grow rural economies," he says.

Last year Cuomo held summits on how to boost the Greek Yogurt and beer, wine and spirits industries. Environmental groups have raised concerns about Cuomo's plans to allow farmers to hold raise more dairy cows in order to support the milk demands for yogurt.

Ammerman also points out that the Cuomo budget does include any cuts to agriculture spending, which is a good thing in a time of tight budgets.

Here's how some of Cuomo's proposed agriculture spending breaks down:

  • Pro Dairy:  $822,000
  • FreshConnect Farmers Market Program: $450,000
  • Farm Viability Institute:  $400,000
  • Farm Family Assistance: $384,000
  • New York Wine and Grape Foundation: $713,000
  • Apple Growers Association: $206,000
  • Future Farmers of America: $192,000
  • Cornell Rabies Program, which also serves Northern New York: $50,000
  • Program to  increase availability for locally grown hops to support growing craft brew industry: $40,000
WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail
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