National organic dairy producer Horizon Organic has announced an initiative which aims to increase the amount of organic milk processed locally and help farmers in New York State make the switch to organic production methods.

The Horizon Organic Producer Education (HOPE) Programme will offer comprehensive support to farmers who want to convert to organic farming, providing technical assistance and personalised organic certification support and advice. The programme also provides financial aid, which means that dairy farmers are able to convert to organic standards more smoothly.

Horizon Organic is also expanding its milk processing facilities in New York, investing US$18m in its Steuben Foods of Elma plant.

“The New York organic dairy community is vital to Horizon Organic and the national organic milk supply,” said Jule Taylor, director of milk supply for Horizon Organic. “Of our more than 300 family farmer partners across the US who supply milk to Horizon Organic, more than a third of them are in the state of New York. But we need to continue to grow that number to supply the region and the nation’s ever-increasing demand for organic dairy products.”

The organic dairy industry continues to see annual growth rates of 20-30%. Horizon Organic’s New York milk supply currently falls short of meeting the regional demand. The company estimates needing an additional 30,000,000 pounds of organic milk annually from New York dairies to meet demand.

New York’s Senator Hillary Clinton has warmly greeted the HOPE programme and the opportunities that Horizon Organic’s investment affords NY farmers.

“Horizon’s decision to support our farmers and to invest in Steuben Foods in Buffalo is indicative of New York’s strong and vibrant agricultural sector. Organic agriculture has the potential to be an economically viable ‘value-added’ opportunity for upstate New York family farms and we need to continue to work together to provide the necessary information and incentives to help producers interested in the organic transitioning process,” Clinton said.