Press Release

Gillibrand Calls for USDA Disaster Declaration to Help Upstate Farms Damaged by Deep Winter Freeze

Mar 7, 2014

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 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 anymore 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.

Senator 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.

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.

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.

Senator Gillibrand’s complete letter to Secretary Vilsack is attached.