Press Release

At Gillibrand’s Urging, Usda Issues Disaster Declaration To Help Upstate Farms Damaged By Deep Winter Freeze

Mar 26, 2014

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued an agriculture disaster declaration that will help send relief to upstate grape farms and vineyards in the Finger Lakes, Western, Central and Northern New York that were damaged by a long winter of sub-zero temperatures. 

In a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack earlier this month, Senator Gillibrand requested 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 anymore setbacks. This is the step we need to get federal resources on the ground so we can help our farms recover, and grow our economy.” 

The secretarial disaster declaration covers the primary areas of Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Oswego and Yates Counties. 

The disaster declaration also covers contiguous disaster counties, including Allegany, Cortland, Erie, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins, Wayne and Wyoming counties.

Extended periods of record-low winter temperatures ranging from 7 to 18 degrees below zero are expected to lead to significant crop losses. 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. 

A secretarial disaster designation makes farm operations in primary counties and counties contiguous to those primary counties eligible for select assistance from the U.S. Farm Service Agency. 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 tree assistance program (TAP), 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 replace damaged vines, low-interest emergency loans and assistance in rehabilitating farm land.