Gillibrand wants disaster declaration for area crops

A second U.S. Senator from New York is calling for more funds for relief to grape farms affected by the harsh winter.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Friday called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to issue an agriculture disaster declaration to send relief to upstate grape farms and vineyards in the Finger Lakes, Western and Central New York damaged by a long winter of sub-zero temperatures.

Extended periods of record-low winter temperatures ranging from 7 to 18 degrees below zero are expected to lead to significant crop losses. Some Finger Lakes vineyards have experienced as much as 90 percent bud loss, according to Cornell Cooperative Extension.

In a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Gillibrand is requesting the disaster declaration to expedite federal assistance to damaged farmland.

“When New York’s farmers struggle, our entire economy struggles,” Senator Gillibrand said. “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.”

New York State’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.

Gillibrand is calling on Secretary Vilsack to swiftly grant a disaster designation for affected counties, including Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Oswego, Yates and additional counties as more crop losses are determined.

Last month, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer personally visited Portland when he called on the USDA to provide emergency funds to grape farmers affected by the harsh winter.