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Gillibrand pushes for USDA disaster declaration for freeze-affected Upstate farms

By Eric Reinhardt


U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.) is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue an agriculture-disaster declaration with upstate New York in mind.

Such a declaration would mean federal relief for Upstate grape farms and vineyards in the Finger Lakes and Western and Central New York “damaged by a long winter of sub-zero temperatures,” Gillibrand’s office said in a news release.

Some Upstate farms are anticipating “significant” crop losses following extended periods of record-low winter temperatures ranging from 7-degrees below to 18-degree below zero, according to Gillibrand’s office.

The Democrat’s office also cites information from Cornell Cooperative Extension that some Finger Lakes vineyards have lost 90 percent of their buds.

Gillibrand in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requested the disaster declaration to expedite federal assistance for damaged farmland.

The Democrat is calling on Secretary Vilsack to “swiftly” grant a disaster designation for affected counties, including Cayuga, Oswego, and additional counties as farms determine crop losses.

 When New York’s farmers struggle, the state’s entire economy struggles, Gillibrand said in the news release.

“This long and bitter cold winter has been extremely harmful to grape growers and vineyards. Losing out on these crops will set them behind all season, and hurt local businesses and jobs at a time we just can’t afford any more setbacks. We need these federal resources on the ground without delay so we can help our farms recover, and grow our economy,” Gillibrand said.

The federal assistance can help provide farmers with prompt access to the financial and technical assistance they need to recover, including assistance through the Emergency Loan Program, the Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) program, the Emergency Conservation Program, and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, Gillibrand’s office said.

The programs can help farmers overcome the challenges they will face in the coming weeks and months as they work to recover from production and physical losses on their farms, the Senator contends. They will also help farmers rebuild their businesses with financial assistance to replace damaged vines, low interest emergency loans, and assistance in rehabilitating farmland.

New York’s vineyards generate an estimated $4.8 billion toward the state’s economy. Jobs in New York’s wine and grape industry grew by 20 percent in the last decade, according to the news release.


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