Press Release

With Ongoing Drought Starving NY Crops, Gillibrand Calls for Disaster Relief Package in Farm Bill to Include New York

Jul 31, 2012

Washington, D.C. – With farmland across upstate New York in the grip of a summer drought that is starving production from crops that are still recovering from a late spring freeze and last year’s back-to-back tropical storms, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today called on leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to include New York State in any disaster relief program in the 2012 Farm Bill.  

“For New York State’s economy to grow, we need our farms to thrive,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Still recovering from last year’s back-to-back natural disasters and a late spring frost, this drought is just the latest drain on our farmland’s productivity – costing our state even more crops. America has always stood by those who are suffering and helped them to rebuild. And we need to continue standing by New York’s farmers so they can get back to business, and keep our agricultural industry on the move.”

“From the extreme floods to the damaging frost to the current drought, the past year has exposed how vulnerable New York’s farmers are to the will of Mother Nature,” said Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau President. “Not having the 2012 Farm Bill in place before the current one expires only adds to the uncertainty for our farmers and prevents the implementation of a critical, new safety net that will help ensure family farms in New York keep providing the healthy, local food people want.  New York Farm Bureau appreciates Sen. Gillibrand’s work to secure disaster assistance for our farmers who will need it following a difficult 12 months.”

The ongoing drought and extreme heat is stunting growth for a range of crops, reducing milk production at dairy farms, and burdening farms with the costs of setting up new irrigation systems. The drought has also caused animal feed prices to rise as much as 50 percent just in the last three months, adding even higher costs to farmers to stay in business during a season expected to yield a disappointing harvest after enduring one natural disaster after another.

Federal agriculture disaster recovery programs can provide a variety of tools to assist farmers in overcoming the challenges they can face as they work to recover from production and physical losses on their farms and rebuild their business, including financial assistance to compensate for farm losses, low interest emergency loans, and assistance in rehabilitating farm land.

The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter is below:

Dear Chairmans Stabenow and Lucas, and Raking Member Roberts and Peterson,
            While it is unclear if the 2012 Farm Bill will be considered on the House of Representatives or if it will proceed directly to conference, I would like to call your attention to the natural disasters which have tragically impacted the farmers of New York State. The extreme weather events experienced across the country this year, especially the wildfires and severe drought experienced by half the country, come on the heels of last year’s extreme weather events, including the droughts in Texas and the Midwest and the hurricane, tropical storm, and subsequent floods that ravaged many agricultural communities on the East coast. I would recommend that any disaster relief program included in the bill, also include the farmers in my state whose farms have suffered dramatically from these severe weather events.
Following the severe floods caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee last fall, when hundreds of New York farms lost their entire crops or herds, we had an unusually warm winter in New York. This warm winter led to fruit blossoms to bloom early, meaning they were all destroyed by freezes and frosts in the early spring. Most fruit growers lost all or most of their fruit crops.
Now, my state is experiencing drought as well which has led to a myriad of problems for our farms. For dairy farmers, they report that the extreme heat and lack of water has led their herds to eat less and thereby produce less milk. New York farmers are also reporting the economic burden of setting up irrigation systems and water costs, which are not usually necessary with normal rainfall. Many crops such as corn are noticeably stunted, and it is unclear how much of these crops at harvest will be ready for the fresh produce market. Similarly, the nationwide drought is causing the cost of animal feed to skyrocket, having an adverse impact on livestock and dairy farms’ ability to stay economically viable.
The Farm Bill provides critical programs to support farmers, so as you consider the language of the final bill I strongly urge you to include a disaster relief program for farmers including those who have suffered in New York. I look forward to working together on this urgent issue for our nation’s farmers, rural economies and our food supply.