Sept. 4, 2013

Schumer to tout Cornell food safety, dairy expertise to feds

Charles Schumer
Robert Barker/University Photography
Sen. Charles Schumer pledges support for Cornell Sept. 3.
Charles Schumer and Kathryn Boor
Robert Barker/University Photography
Sen. Charles Schumer and Dean Kathryn Boor tour Stocking Hall Sept. 3.

With its state-of-the-art facilities, expertise and extensive extension and training network, Cornell University is positioned to be a national center of excellence in dairy and food safety, according to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

In a Sept. 3 visit to the Ithaca campus, Schumer promised to put his political muscle behind the effort to give Cornell official federal recognition for its efforts by lobbying leaders of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The designation would be the first of its kind supporting the dairy industry.

“It’s time we have a national one-stop shop for dairy farmers to turn to when it comes to accessing top-notch information, resources and training,” Schumer said. “Cornell is the place. This is the best school of agricultural science in the country.”

The move could help the university secure more funding for food safety research and training initiatives. It could also place Cornell more prominently on the national scene and allow the university to lead development of industrywide quality and safety standards, Schumer said.

“The nation could learn a thing or two from you,” he added. “Cornell is an essential cog in the wheel of our upstate agricultural industry, and now we can take all the good work you do in New York state and spread it across the country.”

Schumer cited statistics that illustrated the importance of food safety research to the health of all Americans. An estimated one in six U.S. residents is struck by a foodborne illness each year, leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, he said.

Research conducted at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) is also vital to the nation’s economic health and well-being, added the college’s dean, Kathryn Boor, a microbiologist whose work focuses on foodborne pathogens.

By securing the safety of the nation’s dairy products, the college enhances the strength and profitability of the dairy industry itself, Boor said. In New York state, dairy farmers produce milk valued at about $2.6 billion a year, and pay $197 million in wages on 5,000 farms. The state’s 8,000 dairy food processing jobs have a large multiplier effect, creating the need for an additional 45,000 jobs in related industries, according to research conducted at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.

“I believe that a partnership like the one Sen. Schumer envisions between Cornell, the USDA and FDA will extend this successful model throughout our region and across the entire country, not only ensuring safer, higher quality and more delicious dairy products, but also delivering jobs, economic growth and real prosperity to communities that need it the most,” Boor said.

Schumer made his pledge to a room full of reporters, faculty, staff, students, dairy industry representatives and others in CALS’ newly renovated Stocking Hall, home of the Department of Food Science. He took a tour of the new dairy plant and learned about a partnership between CALS and Wegmans supermarkets to bolster the state’s artisan cheese industry.

Schumer said he is a city boy from Brooklyn, but he appreciates farms and considers his contributions to agriculture the most important thing he has done in his 40-year political career. He shared anecdotes about farm tours and his first visit to Cornell in 1966.

“I love Cornell. You are so important in every way to our state,” Schumer said. “You are going to not only transform rural New York, but with the tech campus, you are going to transform New York City, too.”

Stacey Shackford is a staff writer in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.