Local Matters

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Upstate Niagara Cooperative

September 2, 2020 - 6:07pm

The passing of a resolution authorizing the Town of Batavia to apply for a $750,000 New York State grant is welcome news to officials of Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc., the dairy farmer-owned conglomerate that purchased the former Alpina Foods plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park on East Main Street Road.

“We’re targeting on opening as soon as reasonably possible pending the OCR (Office of Community Renewal Community Development Block Grant) approval and equipment ordering, as we need additional equipment for the facility,” said Mike Patterson, chief financial officer for the company – formed in 2006 as a result of a merger between Upstate Farms Cooperative and Niagara Milk Cooperative.

The Batavia Town Board this afternoon passed the measure, along with another OCR grant application for the same amount for a $21.6 million project at HP Hood LLC, in the Agri-Business Park to install a new filler line. The HP Hood plan would created about 56 new jobs, including positions that would provide entry-level employee training.

The Alpina plant has been vacant for the last 18 months following Upstate’s $22.5 million purchase of what was a $60 million investment by Alpina, a Colombia-based company that attempted to break into the U.S. Greek yogurt market more than six years ago.

Patterson said company leaders have been “trying to figure out the best use for the plant,” adding that they spent another $1 million since the acquisition and are investing an additional $4,040,000 to get the processing plant up and running.

Currently, Upstate has employees working at its membership office in the R.E. Chapin building and at the O-At-Ka Milk Products facility, both on Ellicott Street Road.

All told, the cooperative employs 1,800 people in New York, Patterson said, with the opening of the Batavia plant expected to create 50 more jobs.

Patterson said the OCR grant will support the purchase of necessary equipment and the training of new employees.

“One of the toughest issues we face in this area is finding qualified help, so we’re trying to get employees that are ready to be trained, and they will be brought into our manufacturing sites – not only for us but for Hood and O-At-Ka and other places,” he said. “It was all part of this project.”

The Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation, an arm of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, is acting as a pass-through for the grant/loan to reach Upstate.

“We get involved with the Office of Community Renewal and have done a bunch of these projects throughout time when we get great companies investing in Genesee County,” said Chris Suozzi, GCEDC vice president of Business Development. “We want to be able to help them out.”

He said the OCR program has been “our friend” and is confident that Upstate will receive the grant.

“It’s one of the great grant or low-interest loan programs,” he said. “The grant program is kind of how we’ve devised it with the companies, and it helps them continue to grow.”

Patterson said the current project does not include any tax incentives from the GCEDC.

“The original IDA (Industrial Development Agency) tax abatements were given to Alpina when they built the facility. There is no new additional IDA money that way for that (but) there would be on any future expansion.”

May 1, 2020 - 1:10pm

Press release:

The Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA) today announced that farms and co-ops located across Upstate New York have donated more than 34,000 pounds of milk, beef, fruit and vegetables to fellow New Yorkers in need. 

In addition to the NY-sourced milk and food, packets of crayons and coloring books for kids have also been donated, and were made available to families today, May 1, at Senator Jessica Ramos’ district office in East Elmhurst, Queens.

The following donations were made possible by a partnership between Senator Ramos and a number of New York State farms:

  • 300 pounds of beef donated by La Casa De Leche Farm (Livingston County) and the Northeast Dairy Producers Association.
  • 1,700 gallons of milk donated by Dairy Farmers of America.
  • 20,000 apples equaling 5,700 pounds donated by Farm Fresh First Inc., which markets NY apples from more than 100 apple growers throughout the state.
  • 14,000 pounds of onions, 8,000 pounds of potatoes and 4,000 pounds of cabbage donated by Torrey Farms Inc. (Genesee County) and the New York State Vegetable Growers Association
  • 2,880 pounds of blueberry and vanilla parfait yogurt donated by Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc., a dairy cooperative located in Western New York.
  • 575 packs of Prang Crayons made with soybean oil donated by the New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association, along with coloring books sponsored by New York dairy farmers and donated through American Dairy Association North East.

On Wednesday, a truck left Western New York packed with beef, vegetables, fruit, yogurt, crayons and coloring books. The truck stopped at Dean Foods in Rensselaer County to pick up 1,700 gallons of milk and arrived in Queens yesterday.

Many areas in Senate District 13, including Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona and parts of Woodside and Astoria — are considered food deserts, making it difficult to obtain fresh meals. Additionally, there are few local food pantries that remain open in the area as many residents have fallen ill with COVID-19. 

The donations of food, milk, crayons and coloring books were distributed to families in need today. A hot meal distribution will also take place on Saturday, May 2 at Senator Ramos’ office. 

“In addition to the unspeakable loss of life caused by the coronavirus pandemic, two additional devastating tragedies are unfolding during this crisis — a spike in hunger as the economic pain takes its toll, and the breakdown of our food supply chain,” Senator Ramos said.

“We cannot have hungry families in New York City, and farmers Upstate dumping their product because they cannot sell it. Together with our farmer partners, we created our own network, and we will convert our district office into a food distribution hub to provide our neighbors with fresh produce and meals.” 

Northeast Dairy Producers Association Vice Chair and Owner of La Casa De Leche Farm (Livingston County) Keith Kimball said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all -- our families, our businesses and the greater New York community.

"By pooling resources and working together to adapt to unprecedented market disruption, we’re able to get milk, beef and produce in the hands of those in need. I’m proud to partner with farmers, co-ops and processors across the state to make this donation a reality, and thankful to Senator Ramos for hosting the event for families in Queens.”

Maureen Torrey, co-owner of Torrey Farms Inc. in Genesee County, said, “Thanks to the passionate employees on our family farm and our dedicated truck drivers, we’re able to donate 26,000 pounds of vegetables to families in need, including onions that Senator Ramos helped us plant last year.

"This public health crisis has changed life as we know it, but what we’ve learned is that no matter where you live -- Buffalo, Plattsburgh, New York City and everywhere in between -- we’re all New Yorkers -- and together We are New York Tough.” 

(File photo of Maureen Torrey taken in 2013.)

Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA) is an organization of dairy producers and industry partners committed to an economically viable, consumer-conscious dairy industry dedicated to the care and well-being of our communities, environment, employees and cows.

February 7, 2020 - 12:15pm

Press release:

The Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation (GGLDC) Board of Directors approved the sale of 28 acres of land parcels in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park at its Feb. 6 board meeting.

HP Hood is purchasing 22 acres and Upstate Niagara Cooperative is purchasing six acres. Both companies have plans to grow and expand their businesses in the Ag Park over the next several years. 

HP Hood and Upstate Niagara Cooperative are part of a food and beverage manufacturing hub that has invested more than $500 million into a food and beverage manufacturing hub that including the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park has more than 1 million square feet of facilities and more than 700 workers.

With the sale of the 28 acres, there are approximately 80 acres remaining in the Ag Park, including a 30-acre site with direct railroad access and a retail-friendly parcel at the park’s entrance on Route 5.

July 14, 2016 - 12:20pm

Pictured at the ribbon-cutting ceremony are, back from left: Mark Niederpruem, Warehouse manager; Dan Wolf, chairman of Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc.; Dave Nutting, VIP Structures; Front from left: Paul Battaglia, chairman of Genesee County Economic Development Center; Bill Schreiber, CEO; Michael Patterson, CFO; Larry Webster, CEO Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc.; and John Gould, chairman of O-AT-KA.

Submitted photos and press release:

O-AT-KA Milk Products is pleased to announce that it held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its newly expanded warehousing storage and material handling facility in Batavia on July 11.

In attendance were O-AT-KA’s and Upstate Niagara Cooperative’s Board of Directors; key vendors and contractors for the project; banking representatives; local business leaders and invited guests.

“Project Rubicon affords O-AT-KA the opportunity to address three key focus points of our business; namely, employee safety, product quality and operational efficiencies," said Michael Patterson, O-AT-KA’s chief financial officer. "The viability of the project was supported via our strong relationships with the community, the municipalities and our key vendors and stakeholders."

O-AT-KA’s commitment to innovation is demonstrated within the expansion which added over 235,000 square feet to its Batavia plant. A second phase of the project has been initiated to capture efficiencies and optimize material handling equipment and processes. The new facility and equipment phase of the project allows the company to meet increasing customer demand, improve global competitiveness and allow for future growth of production capabilities. The project will significantly improve upon O-AT-KA’s already high standards of safety and quality.

“The implementation of Rubicon will advance our ability to serve customers, significantly improve our competitive position and is testimony to the vision and commitment of our farmer owners,” said Chief Executive Officer Bill Schreiber.

Founded in 1959, O-AT-KA is a manufacturer and co-packer of dairy-based products and ready-to-drink shelf stable beverages and is one of Genesee County’s largest employers. It is located at the corner of Cedar and Ellicott streets.

November 29, 2011 - 9:42pm

With the planned yogurt plants for Alpina and PepsiCo in Batavia, there's nothing but opportunity ahead for regional dairy farmers, according to Kim Pickard-Dudley, general manager of the membership division of Upstate Niagara Cooperative.

More yogurt means more milk and farmers are ready to meet the demand, Pickard-Dudley said.

"We're obviously excited for this opportunity for farmers," Pickard-Dudley said.

Upstate built its own yogurt plant in West Seneca in 2006 and a year ago purchased a 100-year-old plant in Watertown.

Alpina and PepsiCo have both broken ground on sites in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, though PepsiCo has yet to reach a purchase agreement with the GCEDC (negotiations are, we hear, currently going on at the Albany level) for the 81-acre parcel. 

Regional farmers will be able to adjust capacity to meet all the demand for milk to make yogurt, Pickard-Dudley said.

Whether that milk comes through Upstate or yogurt manufacturers go directly to farmers is unknown at this time, Pickard-Dudley.

"Farmers are always up for a challenge for meeting new demands on supply," Pickard-Dudley said.

Pickard-Dudley was in Batavia at the O-AT-KA offices on Monday to meet with Rep. Kathy Hochul, who discussed with Upstate representatives her bill to create a guest worker program to assist New York's agricultural industry.

September 1, 2009 - 8:00pm

The best-tasting milk and dip in New York State comes from Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc.’s plants in Rochester and West Seneca, respectively. Genesee County milk suppliers participate in the co-op.

Cornell University’s Department of Food Science honored the cooperative’s Upstate Farms Milk and Bison Creamy Dill Dip products at the New York State Fair’s Dairy Day on Aug. 31.

Company representatives were invited to take home the Gold Medallion, accompanied by the Blue Ribbon. Ken Voelker, director of marketing at Upstate Niagara Cooperative pointed out that “Winning the gold reflects our member farmers’ commitment to produce the best milk and dairy products possible. We look forward to continually enhancing the quality of the products that we deliver throughout the U.S.” 

Bison Creamy Dill Dip, manufactured by Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc., is one of the company’s newest dip flavors, joining its popular flavor line-up. All Bison® dips are made with fresh sour cream and include flavors like French Onion, Southwestern Chipotle, Creamy Ranch, Roasted Garlic & Parmesan, and Reduced Fat French Onion.

Cornell University’s Department of Food and Science conducted the tests. Analysis focused on appearance, mouth feel and overall taste. The annual selection is a part of the New York State Quality Improvement and enjoys participation from nearly all commercial dairy producers in New York.   
   
Upstate Niagara Cooperative (formerly Upstate Farms) is owned and operated by a close-knit family of over 390 local dairy-farm families who care deeply about quality and freshness. The cooperative has been supplying a wide variety of fresh, high-quality dairy products under the Upstate Farms, Bison and Intense brands, for more than 40 years.

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