Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand announced that they have successfully petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to use $11.5 million in Section 32 funds to purchase concord grape juice for use in domestic nutrition programs. The grape industry currently has a surplus of Concord grapes used to make Concord juice, as a carryover from a large 2013 crop of grapes. The Senators had written the USDA to help purchase some of this surplus product to ensure that prices remain stable for the industry ahead of the 2014 harvest. New York has 281 growers and over 9,700 acres of Concord vineyards. Today, Schumer and Gillibrand are announcing a $11.5 million nationwide purchase of Concord grape juice, which will be 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 heed our call and purchase more grapes ahead of this year’s harvest is a win-win for New York growers and individuals receiving nutrition assistance,” said Senator Schumer. “More juice sales mean more profit for our growers, like Winegrape Growers, Inc., and Clearview Farms in the Finger Lakes, for our Niagara Grape growers in Western New York and places like Giancarelli Brothers in Cayuga County. On top of that, it means the market for their product will be stable ahead of this year’s harvest, so they will now have the certainty they need to make the decision to expand or grow jobs this year. New York is replete with vineyards from Long Island to Western New York, and today’s announcement is good news for every grape-grower in New York.”
“New York’s world-class vineyards produce some of the finest grapes, grown by hard-working farm families,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “When we connect our grape growers in Western New York and the Finger Lakes, we can help strengthen our agriculture economy, while bringing healthy, nutritious grape juice to school children across the country.”
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 new bonus buy will benefit grape producers in New York, Washington, Michigan, Pennsylvania Ohio, Arkansas, Missouri, and Indiana.
A copy of Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand’s August 15, 2013 letter to the USDA appears below:
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
We write to you to urge that the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) exercises its authority to use Section 32 funds to stabilize the concord grape market by conducting a bonus buy of this year’s anticipated surplus concord grape inventory.
We request that the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) work with the industry to reduce the Concord juice inventory with a significant bonus purchase early in FY 2014 for the commodity programs serviced by AMS. Bonus buys by AMS were very effective in fiscal years 2006 and 2007. They also served to stabilize Concord markets several times in the 1990s and 1980s. Time is of the essence since this year’s crop is expected to be dramatically larger than historic levels. The anticipated carryover must be reduced as quickly as possible to minimize effects on the Concord growers. Not only will this help New York States 281 growers and over 9,700 acres of Concord vineyards, but it will help the industry across the country.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter and look forward to working with you and the growers across New York State.
Charles E. Schumer Kirsten E. Gillibrand
U.S. Senator U.S. Senator