November 13, 2009

Gillibrand Calls on USDA To Make Financial Assistance Available To More New York Vineyards

New York Wineries That Buy Grapes From Other Vineyards Are Currently Not Eligible For FSA Loans

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand credit for farm wineries in New York and across the country. While the Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides loan guarantees to local farmers, there is an eligibility issue that limits some farm operations from taking advantage of the USDA program. Farms that buy produce from other farms are currently not eligible for FSA loan guarantees in certain situations. Senator Gillibrand asked that the USDA review the FSA loan guarantee program and expand it to include farms that purchase produce.

"New York is known for its world-class vineyards - from Long Island and the Hudson Valley to the Finger Lakes and Western New York, and even the North Country," Senator Gillibrand said. "During these tough economic times, New York's agriculture sector has been hit hard. It is critical that our grape growers be allowed to take full advantage of credit opportunities. New York's farmers are a vital part of our economy and we must ensure their success."

In New York, it is common for farm wineries to purchase a portion of their grapes/juice from other growers. Sometimes the amount purchased exceeds the amount grown on the farm. Senator Gillibrand called for a modification that would allow FSA loan guarantees for the percentage of the farm and processing operation that relates directly to the farm's production. 

In her letter to Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack, Senator Gillibrand wrote, "As you know, agriculture is a vital part of the economy of New York State. I would appreciate your review of this matter and informing me if USDA can implement a...change to address this issue, or if this will require legislation. Thank you for your efforts in support of the farm families in New York State."

The grape industry is crucial to New York State. According to New York Department of Agriculture and Market, New York ranks third in the country for wine and grape juice production. Cornell cites that grape industry tourism and associated industries have a statewide economic impact of $6 billion - primarily produced around Lake Erie, the Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and the eastern end of Long Island.