SUNY Cobleskill’s Dairy Processing Center (above) will play a vital role as a shared processing space for area farms that produce cow, goat, and sheep milk.

The USDA announced this week that SUNY Cobleskill has been awarded a $490,883 Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) grant to expand the capacity of its Dairy Processing Center, helping to address diversification and profitability challenges faced by dairy producers in New York’s Mohawk Valley. The College received one of the 42 grants nationally in the 2019 cycle, only five of which were awarded to higher education institutions, including Cornell, Penn State, Chatham University, and Auburn University.

The LFPP grants fund the development and expansion of local and regional food business enterprises to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced agricultural products, and to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets.

SUNY Cobleskill’s commitment to regional development has recently been recognized by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) as the recipient of the 2019 Excellence and Innovation Award for Regional and Economic Development. This national award recognizes the achievements of the Institute for Rural Vitality at SUNY Cobleskill, created in 2016 as an extension of the College’s commitment to serve the public good. This year, College President Marion A. Terenzio was appointed co-chair of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council.

SUNY Cobleskill’s Dairy Processing Center will play a vital role as a shared processing space for area farms that produce cow, goat and sheep milk. For most, investment in on-farm processing capacity would not be feasible because of insurmountable costs and regulatory requirements. Dairy Processing Center shared-space users will pay nominal overhead fees for equipment use, and receive product development and production assistance from Center staff. Grant funds will be used to add additional processing and distribution equipment, and expand the reach of product development and marketing assistance currently offered through the College’s Farm and Food Business Incubator (FFBI), under the auspices of the Institute for Rural Vitality at SUNY Cobleskill.

This effort will facilitate transition of regional dairy farms struggling with the price and scale realities of commodity markets to processing and marketing of farm-branded and regionally-branded value-added products. FFBI goals include enhanced viability of regional dairy producers; a thriving regional value-added dairy product brand; and a larger volume and variety of value-added dairy products marketed out of the region to dense consumer populations in the Northeast.