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Grant Money Geared to 'Keep Milk Local' in Pennsylvania

Although these cows are milked 400 miles upstream from the Chesapeake Bay, they could be part of the pollution problem that has vexed the nation’s largest estuary for decades. Manure and other pollution from parts of six states and Washington, D.C., all drain into the bay.
In the Keystone State, 474,000 cows produce more than 10 billion pounds of milk annually.

Pennsylvania dairy processors and farmers can apply for grants to assist them with upgrading their facilities, as part of a larger effort to keep local foods in local communities.

Nationally, Pennsylvania is ranked seventh among states in total milk production, and experts believe there is always room for improvement, from the farm through the supply chain.

Jayne Sebright, executive director of the Center for Dairy Excellence, said $12 million expansion grants are available from the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center.

"We have over 30 individual dairies, individually-owned or family-owned dairy processors, that market milk to grocery stores and schools, and restaurants and homes, throughout Pennsylvania," Sebright noted. "Those family businesses can apply."

Sebright pointed out much of the milk sold in Pennsylvania comes from local, family-owned businesses, which is more than likely produced and processed within 150 miles of the store. The expansion grants can be used to fund specialized equipment, training and marketing, and other facets of the businesses to improve their output.

Pennsylvania dairies and milk processors will be competing by size with their peers from 10 other Northeastern states, based on the volume of milk produced in an average day. Sebright advised they should already be thinking about the application process, because it starts in just a few weeks.

"The biggest thing is, if you are one of those larger Tier One or Tier Two processors, that you would submit the pre-application by May 11, and get your name in there, get your project in there," Sebright recommended. "Then, once they get those pre-applications, they're going to actually invite processors to submit the full application."

The dairy industry contributes more than 52,000 jobs and $14.7 billion dollars to the state's economy each year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.