After being passed almost unanimously in the Legislature and state Senate, a bill that would make yogurt the official snack of the state of New York is awaiting Gov. Cuomo’s signature into law.
“This is really an example of democracy in action,” Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, the sponsor of the bill, said during a Senate session in May.
The bill idea originated from a fourth-grade class in Byron-Bergen Elementary School, Genesee County, that Ranzenhofer had visited in February.
The fourth-graders pitched their idea to the state senator after they had heard the news of Russia blocking a shipment of Chobani yogurt to U.S. athletes during the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Their interest in yogurt also stemmed from the recent opening of Muller and Alpina yogurt factories that had created 500 jobs in their community, Ranzenhofer said.
“It makes sense from an economic standpoint,” Ranzenhofer said. “New York has become the number one producer of yogurt, surpassing California, in the last 10 years.”
The nearly hourlong discussion of the bill in the Senate consisted mostly of light banter between Ranzenhofer and his fellow senators.
The senators asked lighthearted questions about what the bill entailed, such as whether the yogurt would be low fat, given that many varieties had unhealthy amounts of sugar.
“Are we concerned we are offending other foods that are produced and popular in here in the state of New York?” asked Sen. Liz Krueger.
“I would just like to know how you offend foods,” retorted Sen. John A. DeFrancisco.
Official State Food
The bill was mocked on comedy programs when it was first introduced in the Senate. Jon Stewart called it “maybe the best 40 minutes” of legislative debate ever, and clips from the Senate debate were featured on a David Letterman segment called “New York State: Your Tax Dollars at Work.”
Still, the concept of an official state food is not without precedent in New York. Roses were declared the state flower in 1955, sugar maple the state tree in 1956, and milk the state beverage in 1981. The state even declared apple muffin the state muffin in 1987.
Milk is also the official beverage of 20 other states.
Gov. Cuomo has always had a cordial relationship with the yogurt industry in New York. He held the state’s first ever Yogurt Summit for dairy farmers and yogurt producers in 2012, and attributed New York’s rise as the top yogurt producing state in 2013 to “government and the private sector working together.”
The dairy industry in New York employed 9,470 people in 2013, delivering $513 million in wages, and ranked as the third milk producing state, according to the governor’s office.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.