Environmental groups are pushing back against Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration's plan to support a growing yogurt industry by easing regulations on large-scale dairy operations.

The Greek yogurt industry is growing so fast in New York that the state doesn't have enough cows to meet the demand for milk. At a "yogurt summit" in August, Governor Cuomo called Greek yogurt one of the best entrepreneurial opportunities in a generation.

Farms with up to 200 cows are exempt from rules requiring extra steps to prevent pollution from cow waste. Cuomo proposes raising the limit to 300 cows to help farms expand without high regulatory costs.

The groups, which include RiverKeeper, EarthJustice, Environmental Advocates and Citizens Campaign for the Environment, contend the proposed deregulation is a violation of the federal Clean Water Act and would undermine the DEC's ability to meet runoff limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect Chesapeake Bay.

The Farm Bureau estimates that potentially 800 farms across the state would be in a position to add 100 cows if the new rules are approved, but not all would have the desire or resources to do that.

Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than more traditional yogurt and requires more milk in its production. The rapid growth of the Greek yogurt industry in New York has revitalized the dairy business in the state. The nation's No. 1 and No. 2 Greek yogurt brands, Chobani and FAGE, are both expanding plants in central New York, and the total number of yogurt plants in the state is now 29, up from 14 in the year 2000.