U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will use up to $18 million in Section 32 funds to purchase concord grape juice for use in domestic nutrition programs across the country. The Senators pushed the USDA to help purchase some of this surplus product to ensure the continued success of Concord grape growers in New York and nationwide. Schumer and Gillibrand said this critical purchase of Concord grape juice is great news for growers in the Finger Lakes, Western New York, and Central New York and will be used to supplement the USDA’s supply for nutrition programs, such as the school lunch program.
“The USDA’s decision to purchase surplus Concord grapes is a major victory for New York growers and individuals across the state receiving nutrition assistance,” said Senator Schumer. “More juice sales mean more profit for our growers in Western New York, Central New York and the Finger Lakes as well as increased access to healthier foods for those in need. Today’s announcement is good news for every grape-grower in New York.”
“This additional USDA funding will support our upstate New York grape growers and is a key step towards ensuring competitiveness while stabilizing prices for farmers,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Purchasing the surplus juice for our nutritional assistance programs across the state reaffirms our commitment to essential healthy affordable food programs for New Yorkers in need.”
Section 32 funds are used by USDA to purchase agriculture products which are in turn used for nutrition programs such as the school lunch program. These bonus buys by USDA have been effective in the past to stabilize agriculture markets while increasing the supply of nutritious foods available for domestic food assistance programs. Purchases of Concord grapes have helped stabilize their market in the past and this buy will benefit grape producers in New York, and nationwide.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to Secretary Perdue appears below:
Dear Secretary Perdue:
I write to encourage the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) to utilize its statutory authority under Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1935 to conduct a bonus buy purchase of Concord grape juice as soon as possible. This critical bonus buy would help ensure the continued success of Concord grape growers in New York and nationwide, while also helping to supplement the USDA’s supply for nutrition programs.
As you may know, New York has more than 280 growers with over 9,700 acres of Concord vineyards across the state. Over the past few years, the Concord grape crops have been larger than average nationally, with this year’s crop being no exception. This year’s successful crop, in addition to a large carryover from last year, is of great concern to our small grower’s and the industry as a whole. Since previous AMS Concord grape bonus buys, like the $25 million buy in 2014, have been largely successful, I urge you to quickly approve this request. This bonus buy would not only help stabilize grower’s incomes, it also would help provide valuable nutrients to those most in need.
I understand in this fiscal environment difficult decisions need to be made, however, I urge you to consider and approve a Section 32 Bonus Buy of Concord grape juice as soon as possible. I look forward to working with you on this important request.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator