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Questions about creamery at college 

LOCH SHELDRAKE, NY — A company called Catskill Creamery is proposing to create a creamery on the SUNY Sullivan campus as part of the Startup New York program created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo

The program offers substantial tax breaks, according to a state website, for instance, for “Businesses with 100% of their operations (assets and payroll) in a tax-free area(s), the credit would eliminate any tax liability,” for 10 years. Businesses can also apply for a sales tax exemption, and for those located on college campuses, there will also be no property taxes. Also under the program, employees earning less than $200,000 pay no state wage tax for 10 years.

According to a copy of the Catskill Creamery’s draft application, “The business will be a craft creamery that will be able to meet the needs of farmers, farm groups and other entities desirous of manufacturing dairy products including cheeses, yogurts and assorted traditional and innovative dairy and dairy-related products on an 18-acre parcel of property on the SUNY Sullivan campus.”

However, while this creamery may be able to serve small farmers directly by producing value-added dairy products from individual farms’ milk that farmers could then sell themselves; however, according to the draft application, the milk to make the cheese, yogurt or dairy products will be “purchased from cooperatives that sell the milk of their member farms.” Some small-dairy-farm advocates, including Arlen Tewksbury of the Progressive Agriculture Organization in Meshoppen, PA, have argued that these cooperatives, like Dairy Farmers of America, tend to function like big-business monopolies, and do not represent the interests of small farmers.

Six Sullivan County Dairy farmers had their contracts cancelled by Marcus Dairy in June, then five of them got a reprieve for a few months. The future of these farms is uncertain. Catskills Creamery is not proposing that it will buy milk from them.

Ken Walter, an activist who keeps close watch on the activities at the college, spoke during the public comment period of a meeting of the Sullivan County Public Services Committee on Thursday, October 4, and posed several questions about the project. The draft application says the project will have a footprint of 30,500 square feet. It adds, “This footprint does not include the wastewater treatment facility that will be required to support Catskill Creamery and other potential tenants under this program.” Walter said he thought taxpayers would end up paying for the wastewater treatment plant.

The scope of the project is ambitious. “Phase I will involve capital investment of approximately $9.5M in construction costs and specialized equipment, and will result in employment of 96 [people], with salaries ranging from $28,000 [and up].”

 “Do we want to turn that campus into an industrial zone?” Walter asked. “Do you want the campus or do you want to turn it into an industrial zone?”

Legislator Mark McCarthy responded, “I think the governor has already decided that.”

“We have choices,” Walter said. He said the county owns the land on which the college is situated and as such, legislators should be knowledgeable about the creamery project and able to determine whether it’s a good fit for the community.

 

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