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Why does Chuck Schumer care if US Olympic athletes get Chobani Greek yogurt?

The Associated Press recently reported that one of the sponsors for the U.S. Olympic team, upstate New York-based Chobani are being held up  at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey because of “unattainable” Russian Customs certifications.

Chobani yogurt Image/Video Screen Shot

Chobani yogurt
Image/Video Screen Shot

Chobani said in a statement that “5,000 single-serve cups of blueberry, strawberry and peach Chobani, and multi-serve containers of plain Chobani yogurt for smoothies, are in a temperature-controlled facility, waiting for the final go-ahead from Russian authorities to be immediately transported.”

Enter Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Sen. Schumer is so concerned about our Olympic athletes in Sochi and their lack of Greek yogurt, that he has stepped up to the plate concernedly saying, “the Olympic athletes will not have this nutritious food available to them, and a New York company will miss out on an important marketing opportunity in support of America’s Olympians.”

Schumer even wrote a letter to  the Russian Ambassador and the head of the International Olympic Committee concerning this yogurt crisis:

Dear Ambassador Sergey Kislyak:

I write today to bring to your attention an urgent issue that has resulted in the shipment of Chobani Greek yogurt for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games being withheld entry to the Russian Federation. As the United States and its Olympic athletes prepare for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games which commence later this week, the Russian Federation should accept the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s AMS sanitary certificate for a one-time non-commercial shipment of Chobani Greek yogurt to U.S. athletes.

As you know, the USDA has sent a letter to the Russian Federation’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) requesting permission for Chobani to be able to supply U.S. athletes during the games. The USDA is seeking the approval of an AMS sanitary certificate for export to the Russian Federation, which would be only for a one-time shipment of Greek yogurt and solely for the consumption of U.S. citizens during the 2014 Olympic Games.  

I understand the need for high food safety standards for dairy products. However, the U.S. government has confirmed that sanitary standards have been met to ensure that this yogurt will be safe for consumption by American Citizens attending and participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics. As the world looks forward to a successful 2014 Winter Olympics, I urge your country’s immediate approval of the entry of this shipment of Chobani Greek yogurt.   

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

This is not the first time Schumer has stepped up to the plate for Chobani and the  ‘Silicon Valley of Greek Yogurt’ aka Upstate NY.

Last year, Schumer made sure that Chobani and related companies were included in the federally prescribed school lunches in four states, even in places where local budgets and tastes might not have generated much demand for it.

The Global Dispatch reported last July:

“Grocery shelves across Upstate New York and the country are filled to the brim with Greek yogurt, but unfortunately, despite their high protein and competitive cost, we can’t say the same for New York school children and their school lunch and breakfast menus,” New York Senator Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “That is why I am launching a campaign to work with the USDA and local schools so that New York’s meal programs can say they’ve ‘Got Greek Yogurt.’”

Now Schumer may be key to the New York boom of Greek yogurt, which started with a Fage plant in Johnstown, N.Y and then AgroFarma initiated a Greek-style yogurt line under the Chobani brand, also based in New York state.

$80,000 went to a lobby (Cornerstone Government Affairs) on behalf of the yogurt companies and supported the Schumer initiated DAIRY Act which gives benefits to the New York businesses.

Actually, Senate lobbying records show Chobani had been paying Cornerstone Government Affairs $40,000 a quarter for four consecutive quarters, for a total of $160,000. The Cornerstone team, in turn, includes former staffers of both the agriculture department and the House and Senate agriculture committees.

Does Sen Schumer really care about the Olympic athletes and their lack of  the protein-rich food, or is it something else altogether?

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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