Albany, NY - September 3, 2013 - Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer toured Stocking Hall at Cornell University and urged the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to partner with Cornell University on a national scale in a joint effort to boost research and training programs for dairy safety and quality. Schumer explained that the USDA and FDA fund many food-related initiatives and specialized centers throughout the country, and called on the agencies to explore a partnership with Cornell on matters of dairy safety and quality. Cornell’s dairy program already has a national reputation, and having just completed a new state-of-the-art dairy processing plant designed for research and training, stands to be an industry leader in dairy safety research and worker training. Schumer argued that a federal partnership could help streamline and facilitate joint research. In addition, Schumer said such a designation would help attract federal research dollars, and called on the FDA and USDA to help identify grant and funding opportunities to support the work done at Cornell as it relates to creating this national dairy hub. Schumer pointed to emerging issues in dairy safety as another reason to create a federal partnership with Cornell, to enhance our nation’s capacity to respond to such crises.
Dairy farming is one of New York’s most important – and growing - agricultural industries, and Schumer explained that a national partnership with Cornell will boost research and worker training opportunities, subsequently stimulate innovation and growth in the dairy industry, bring more jobs to Cornell and support dairy farmers and the Greek yogurt industry.
“Cornell is at the forefront of research, outreach, and teaching efforts in dairy and food safety; a national partnership could greatly advance their research and milk their knowledge for all it’s worth,” said Schumer. “Dairy farming is one of New York’s most important agricultural industries, pouring more than $2.6 billion per year into our economy. Establishing a federal partnership with Cornell would further support our state’s ability to produce dairy products such as milk, ice cream, cheese and Greek yogurt, because Cornell’s programs train the workforce of the future in dairy processing. Providing small and medium sized dairy farmers the training, infrastructure and technical assistance necessary to succeed is essential for maintaining and creating new dairy jobs in New York, and that is why I am also working with USDA and FDA to identify future sources of grant funding for Cornell.”
Schumer was joined by Cornell Provost Kent Fuchs, Kathryn Boor, Dean of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Representatives from the University leadership, faculty, staff, dairy industry partners and local elected officials.
"By partnering Cornell’s unparalleled depth of expertise in food safety and dairy sanitation with the USDA’s and FDA’s resources and mission to protect the public, I believe we can contribute immeasurably to securing the safety of the nation’s dairy products, while also enhancing the strength and profitability of the dairy industry itself. I am grateful to Senator Schumer for his commitment and enthusiasm for this proposal, and I applaud his dedication to promoting the health, safety, and economic wellbeing of New Yorkers and all Americans," said Kathryn J. Boor, Ph.D., The Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Schumer urged the USDA and FDA, which have jurisdiction over food safety, research, education, and quality issues, to create a federal partnership with Cornell, which is leading the way in dairy safety research. Schumer argued that such a national partnership would be mutually beneficial: for Cornell the partnership with the federal government would help streamline the dissemination of their research and would boost federal funding opportunities, such a partnership would allow the USDA and FDA to collaborate with experts in the field, and dairy farmers across the country will have broader access to the resources Cornell has to offer.
Schumer also announced he would be working with both agencies to identify new grant and funding sources to advance the research done at Cornell. In addition to basic research, Cornell focuses on dairy training and food processing programs, including tailored workshops and certificate programs for industry personnel. In 2012, 656 individuals attended dairy food workshops for a total of 13,288 contact hours. Cornell has previously partnered with the FDA and offered workshops including milk plant sanitation and inspection and milk pasteurizing courses. Schumer highlighted that Cornell does the heavy-lifting of training the future workforce in the dairy processing industry, without which the New York State dairy industry could not properly function or grow.
Schumer cited one example of the type of funding opportunities that a formal partnership among the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Cornell University could leverage to boost research and training programs for dairy safety and quality here in NYS and beyond. Cornell has submitted a proposal for federal funding in response to an FDA grant program to encourage training for examination, inspection, and investigation of food manufacturing. Cornell submitted an application which would promote preventative dairy food safety behaviors by creating a standardized training curriculum for New York State dairy inspectors. Their plan would optimize regulatory communication with dairy processors. Establishment of Cornell University as a training center for dairy food safety and quality would greatly enhance their ability to attract such grant dollars.
The dairy industry directly employs approximately 20,900 individuals on more than 5,000 farms throughout New York State, which account for more than $197 million in wages. New York has seen an upsurge in the number of cheese-producing farms over the past few years, and is a national leader in Greek yogurt production, as the home of major producers Chobani, Alpina, Fage and Muller Quaker.
The ability to safely and reliably produce high-quality dairy products will support the rapidly growing dairy industry and could open expansion opportunities, especially with regard to the export of U.S. dairy products. Based on estimates by Cornell, a federal partnership with Cornell University would further support New York State’s ability to produce dairy products for export markets, anticipating that such efforts are likely to create another 500 jobs in Upstate New York over 5 years. In addition to facilitating job growth in the dairy production and processing sector, establishment of a federal partnership will provide significant opportunities for job creation in related and supporting industries, including lab and field services, dairy R&D, and production of food safety related equipment and supplies.
Schumer cited Cornell’s reputation, experience and recent infrastructure upgrades as reasons to justify the establishment of a federal partnership. Cornell recently completed a $105 million renovation of Stocking Hall, which includes construction of a new dairy processing plant designed for research and training. Schumer vowed to fight for future sources of funding for dairy safety research and training at Cornell.
“The establishment of a federal partnership with Cornell would provide the nation with its world-class dedicated research and training facility for the dairy industry and would support innovation and stimulate economic growth throughout New York,” continued Schumer. “With Cornell’s industry expertise and the USDA and FDA’s collaboration, we can be sure from farm to table, that our consumers are enjoying the safest and highest-quality dairy.”
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the Secretary of the USDA Tom Vilsack and the Commissioner Hamburg of the FDA appears below:
Dear Secretary Vilsack and Commissioner Hamburg:
Thank you for your continuous work to ensure the safety of our nation's food supply. As the agencies responsible for food safety, research, education, and quality, I am writing to you today to encourage a new partnership with a New York academic partner that can assist with securing food safety. As you may know, Cornell University has recently completed a $105 million renovation of Stocking Hall, which features a new state of the art dairy processing plant designed for research and training. In addition, Cornell offers existing world class dairy research, teaching, and extension program. This makes the university the ideal location for such a partnership.
The dairy industry in particular has undergone many technical advancements over the past few years. With the emergence of a booming American Greek yogurt industry, it has become increasingly more important for dairy farmers and all those that manufacture dairy products to have a central, meaningful source of accurate information and best practices. To protect the integrity and safety of dairy products in New York State and across the country, there is an urgent need for a strategic partnership focused on dairy food safety and quality. The FDA and USDA currently fund a number of food-related initiatives and centers throughout the United States and adding a partnership to facilitate work between the USDA, FDA, and Cornell University will advance science and training of our nation's Dairy industry. Additionally, I encourage both agencies to look at new ways of promoting dairy safety and quality.
Establishment of such a partnership at Cornell would focus on supporting dairy food safety research, dairy food quality optimization from farm-to-table, dairy sustainability, and training of industry and regulators. The partnership would be poised to rapidly address emerging dairy safety issues. A single outbreak can have a ripple effect across an entire nation's dairy industry. The time is now that we enhance our nation's capacity to respond quickly to such crises. The existence of such a partnership would support innovation in dairy and stimulate growth of new dairy related companies in not only upstate New York, but across the country.
I believe that Cornell's dairy program exists at an unparalleled intersection of federal, state, and private industry interests and activity. I urge you to consider establishing a strategic partnership with Cornell University and assist with identifying grant and funding opportunities that can aid in this critical effort to ensure that our nation’s dairy industry is both safe and sustainable for future generations of farmers, workers, and consumers alike.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator