August 31, 2011

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge USDA To Issue Agricultural Disaster Declaration To Expedite Federal Aid To Farms Across Nys Damaged By Irene

Farmers Across NYS Suffering Crop and Livestock Loses and Damage to Property From Severe Wind, Rain, Flooding

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue an agriculture disaster declaration and to expedite disaster assistance for areas of New York hard hit by Hurricane Irene from Long Island, through the Hudson Valley and up to the Capital Region and North Country including Broome, Clinton, Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Fulton, Greene, Herkimer, Nassau, Montgomery, Oneida, Orange, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster and Washington counties. Farmers in these regions have suffered from floods which left fields submerged in water, high winds which have leveled crops, and power outages which have left dairy farmers unable to milk their cows. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand are urging the USDA to immediately approve disaster assistance so farmers across New York State can gain prompt access to the aid they need to recover and will work with state and local officials to expedite further declarations as more county data is made available.


“Whether it’s dairy farmers fighting to tend to their livestock in the face of power outages and property damage, farmers whose fields are underwater, or any other farmer that plays a pivotal role in our economy, one thing is absolutely clear – Irene has had a devastating impact on farms throughout New York,” said Schumer. “Our hardworking farmers deserve to have all available federal assistance at their back as they start to rebuild their farms and recover from this storm. In the coming weeks and months, I’m going to do everything I can to help our farmers get back on their feet.

“New York’s farmers are a critical part of our economy and we must ensure their success,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Heavy rain, severe wind and flooding are leaving farms across New York State under water, damaging crops and costing farmers their business. Federal assistance is absolutely critical to helping these hardworking farm families recover.”

Schumer and Gillibrand are calling on Secretary Vilsack to act expeditiously to grant a disaster designation for affected counties in order to provide farmers with prompt access to the financial and technical assistance they need to recover from the storm and rebuild their farm businesses, 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 in overcoming the challenges they will face in the coming weeks and months as they work to recover from production and physical loses on their farms and rebuild their businesses including financial assistance to compensate for crop losses, low interest emergency loans and assistance in rehabilitating farm land.

The senators’ full letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack:

August 31, 2011
 

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

We are writing today to urge immediate disaster assistance for agriculture producers in New York State who have incurred significant property damage, crop, and livestock losses as a result of Hurricane Irene. 

As you know, Hurricane Irene made landfall in New York over the weekend and caused significant damage to counties throughout the state. While we are still working with state and local officials as well as local USDA offices to assess the extent of the damages, it is clear that many farmers have suffered significant losses. For this reason, we ask that you act expeditiously to grant a disaster designation for affected counties in order to provide farmers with prompt access the financial and technical assistance they need to recover from the storm and rebuilt their farm businesses, 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 in overcoming the challenges they will face in the coming weeks and months as they work to recover from production and physical loses on their farms and rebuild their businesses.

On August 28, President Obama declared a state of emergency for several counties in New York, a clear indication that New York has incurred damages significant enough to require federal assistance. This designation makes some farmers in those counties eligible to participate in certain USDA programs but a Secretarial disaster declaration is needed to allow farmers throughout the state to fully benefit from the disaster aid programs that USDA has to offer. We are currently working with New York state, local USDA offices and other stakeholders to assess the full extent of the damage, however, based on initial reports, it is clear that this storm has inflicted significant damage to farms from Long Island, through the Hudson Valley to Capital Region and the North Country. As the full extent of the damage becomes clear, other losses may be great enough to trigger a disaster designation in more counties. We urge you to move forward with an agricultural disaster designation as soon as possible for affected counties including Broome, Clinton, Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Greene, Herkimer, Nassau, Oneida, Montgomery, Orange, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster, and Washington and to work with state and local officials to expedite further declarations as more county data is made available. 

Declaring an agricultural disaster for areas in New York damaged by Hurricane Irene would allow these hardworking farm families to obtain critical financial and technical assistance to help them recover, and we respectfully urge your expeditious approval of this request.

Thank you for your consideration of this very important issue.