August 25, 2009

Schumer, Gillibrand Applaud USDA For Issuing Secretarial Natural Disaster Designation To Five Counties In NYS Following Frost, Freezes And High Winds

At Senators’ Urging, USDA Has Issued Secretarial Designation to Five NYS Counties Affected by Freezes Emergency Assistance for 15 Neighboring Counties

After urging the USDA to approve New York Governor David Paterson's request for a disaster declaration for the counties affected by freezes, frosts and high winds in May, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today applauded USDA for issuing a Secretarial natural disaster designation for five counties in New York State. The USDA also designated 15 neighboring counties as contiguous disaster counties making them eligible for federal aid as well. In July, Schumer and Gillibrand wrote a personal letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack urging USDA to issue the declaration that would bring additional aid to the affected counties in Upstate New York to help pay for the damage from the bad weather. Today, after pushing to secure the federal aid, Schumer and Gillibrand applauded USDA for issuing the aid for the affected counties in NYS.

The Secretarial natural disaster designation applies to Broome, Chautauqua, Clinton, Erie and Ulster counties and the contiguous counties also eligible for assistance are Cattaraugus, Chenango, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Franklin, Genesee, Greene, Niagara, Orange, Sullivan, Tioga and Wyoming.

"This is a big win for the counties across New York State that were severely damaged during May's freezes and high winds," said Schumer. "No one can account for natural disasters but this assistance will go a long way towards helping our counties and farmers recover from the devastating losses sustained in May."

"This is great news for Western New York," Senator Gillibrand said. "Western New York is known for its world-class vineyards, and the late freeze this spring was devastating to local farmers. New York's farmers are a critical part of our economy and we must ensure their success. This federal assistance will make sure our farmers and communities get the resources they need to recover."

From May 16 to May 26, 2009, counties and farms across New York State suffered severe losses due to frost, freezes and high winds.  Temperatures dropped into the low 20s damaging acres of crops throughout the region. The grape crops in Western New York were hit particularly hard with farmers in some areas losing more than 50 to 60 percent of their crop.

Recognizing the urgency and extent of the damage, Schumer and Gillibrand pushed for immediate aid by urging USDA to approve Governor Paterson's request for a disaster declaration for the counties hit by the unusually cold weather. After meticulous damage assessments, USDA determined that there were sufficient production losses to warrant a Secretarial natural disaster declaration for five counties and designate 15 additional areas as contiguous counties.

The designation makes farm operators in both primary and contiguous counties eligible to be considered for assistance from USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA). These emergency loans are designed to help producers recover from production and physical losses due to freezes, drought, flooding, other natural disasters, or quarantine.  Emergency loan funds may be used to restore or replace essential property; pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year; pay essential family living expenses; reorganize the farming operation; and refinance certain debts.

Schumer and Gillibrand added, "USDA made the right decision here. This declaration will bring swift relief to communities and farmers struggling to repair damages caused by the storm."