July 03, 2013

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge USDA to Issue Agricultural Disaster Declaration to Expedite Federal Aid to Farms Damaged by Heavy Rains, Floods

Farmers in Oneida, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Fulton, Schoharie, Sullivan, Orange, Surrounding Counties Suffering Damage to Property From Severe Rain, Flooding

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today wrote to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue an agriculture disaster declaration and expedite disaster assistance for upstate farmland damaged by heavy rain and flooding, extending from parts of Central New York, the Mohawk Valley, the Capital Region, the Hudson Valley and surrounding areas.

As much as 15 inches of rain has saturated these regions since just mid-May, including the extreme storm that hit late last week, leaving farmland under water and killing crops. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand are urging the USDA to immediately approve disaster assistance so farmers across the affected region can gain prompt access to the aid they need to recover, and will work with state and local officials to expedite further declarations as more county data is made available.

“Agriculture is a key part of our economy and our way of life in Upstate New York,” said Senator Schumer. “As the waters begin to recede, farmers should have all available federal assistance at their back so they can hit the ground running as they start to recover and rebuild from this string of devastating storms. In the weeks and months ahead, we will fight for every last penny of aid to make sure our farmers can do just that.”

“When New York’s farmers struggle, our entire economy struggles,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Heavy rain and flooding are leaving farms across New York State under water, damaging crops and costing farmers their business. We need any available federal resources on the ground without any delay so we can clean up, rebuild, and get our farmers back on the move.”

Schumer and Gillibrand are calling on Secretary Vilsack to swiftly grant a disaster designation for affected counties to provide farmers with prompt access to the financial and technical assistance they need to recover from the storm and rebuild their farm businesses, including assistance through the Emergency Loan Program, the Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) program, the Emergency Conservation Program and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. These programs can provide a variety of tools to assist 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 and rebuild their businesses including financial assistance to compensate for crop losses, low interest emergency loans and assistance in rehabilitating farm land.

The senators’ full letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack:

 

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

 

Thank you again for your partnership in helping New York rebuild after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee struck our state during the fall of 2011. Also, thank you for your assistance as we work towards rebuilding dikes protecting farmland on Long Island, which were severely damaged during Superstorm Sandy. Your attention to New York’s agricultural disasters has been much appreciated, and we are writing to you today to again ask for your assistance in helping New York recover from the extreme rains this spring and early summer.

 

New York State has seen 10-15 inches of rain since the middle of May. As you know, this level of water leads to flooded fields and significant crop losses. This has been a problem across the state but the flooding and weather-related problems have been the most extreme in Oneida, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Fulton, Schoharie, Sullivan and Orange counties, as well as contiguous counties. The state is still trying to assess exact farmer impact, but anecdotal reporting of crop loss and washed out roads are already having significant negative effects on our agricultural communities. Additionally, some farmers are experiencing impacted vegetable planting schedules (such as green beans and some corn plantings), compromised berries due to the saturation of water, and bad quality hay since it has matured and is standing in the fields unable to be cut due to the standing water. The flooding and erosion of corn and hay fields in the region will be particularly damaging for the region’s dairy farmers, who rely on a plentiful corn supply and high-quality hay crop to feed their cows throughout the year. Poor-quality feed and limited supply of corn for grain could very well result in diminished milk production and may force dairy farmers in the region to sell off some of their cows this winter.     

 

                This is a critical time for New York farming communities to receive the support they need. We write today to ask that we work together to expedite the USDA natural disaster declaration process for New York counties in need. Thank you again for your continued support of New York farmers, especially during these critical times after these extreme weather conditions. We look forward to continuing to work together.