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Dairy plant in county’s future?

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — February 12, 2010 — County officials are now eyeing the creation of a dairy processing facility, perhaps in the Town of Fallsburg.
A subgroup of the task force that emerged from the county’s recent “charrette” has been considering the matter for several weeks, said Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon, and have even contacted Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Vegliante about potentially siting the facility in Fallsburg, which has ample water and sewer service.
Other subgroups are talking about the red meat facility proposed for Liberty and a community kitchen, perhaps utilizing Sullivan County Community College’s Culinary Arts program’s excess kitchen space.
As currently discussed, the dairy plant would process milk, butter and other dairy products for sale to stores and through an on-site retail outlet.
At Tuesday’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA) meeting in Monticello, IDA Counsel Walter Garigliano and Executive Director Jennifer Brylinski told board members that an independent feasibility study is needed to proceed.
They recommended planners like Tom Shepstone or Jerry Skoda, who have experience in agricultural issues.
“I think it’s very important to move forward with a study,” agreed IDA Board Chair Elwin Wood, who said the IDA has authorized up to $5,000 for the study.
So does Harold Russell, a well-known Bethel dairy farmer who’s struggling mightily to keep his farm profitable.
“I think there’s definitely a need,” he affirmed later in the week. “Whenever you can market products closer to home, it’s always an advantage.”
Russell is not involved in any of the groups studying the matter, but he’s been a proponent of a dairy processing facility since his days as Bethel’s town supervisor.
He envisions not only a reduction in price (due to the shorter transport distance for milk, which is currently shipped to New Jersey) but also a renewed interest in agritourism.
“It would give agriculture a better perspective to the public,” he predicted.
He said area farmers would welcome talks with the county and any hired planner about how best to create such a facility.
Aragon explained that the discussion is still in a preliminary stage, but he added that appropriations requests have already been made to state and federal officials for funding.

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