Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will use up to $25 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 thanks to a large 2014 crop. The Senators had written the USDA to help purchase some of this surplus product to ensure that prices remain stable for the industry. New York has 281 growers and over 9,700 acres of Concord vineyards. Today, Schumer and Gillibrand are announcing a $25 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 purchase more grapes ahead of this year’s harvest is a major victory for New York growers and individuals around 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. On top of that, it means the market for their product will be stable ahead of next year’s harvest, so they will now have the certainty they need to make important decisions on hiring. 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.
Schumer and Gillibrand also successfully petitioned USDA to conduct a similar “bonus buy” in January, where USDA committed to purchase $11.5 million worth of concord grapes for domestic nutrition programs.