U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced Wednesday (March 26) that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved primary county disaster designations for five New York counties, due to losses caused by freeze that occurred December 1, 2013.
Those counties are: Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Oswego and Yates.
Schumer also said that the Secretarial natural disaster declaration will apply for all counties contiguous to those five, which include: Allegany, Cortland, Erie, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins, Wayne and Wyoming.
Schumer visited numerous wineries this winter and urged that the USDA approve this declaration so that emergency loans could be made available to these farms.
Schumer, who voted for the Farm Bill, also urged the USDA to provide swift relief to vineyards who have suffered major crop damage from the extreme cold weather this winter through the Tree Assistance Program.
Following crop losses due to inclement weather and other natural disaster, growers often suffer from cash flow problems that impact their ability to replant quickly and also impact production for several years into the future.
Schumer explained that the Tree Assistance Program was just passed as part of the Farm Bill and can provide reimbursements to growers who suffer extensive damage to plant trunks as a result of extreme weather events, such as the Polar Vortex-induced freezing temperatures earlier this winter.
In the case of grape vines, as a result of the cold snap, scientists at Cornell are finding damaged buds in test studies, suggesting that over 50% of buds could be damaged this winter, which suggests that vine damage is also highly likely.
“After Upstate New York weathered a long, brutal winter of record-low temperatures, the federal government heeded my call to not leave our farmers and growers out in the cold when they granted 19 counties access to disaster funding. I visited many of these counties and saw the damage the freeze caused to orchards and vineyards firsthand. So thankfully, this disaster declaration means our Upstate farmers and growers will have access to critical emergency loans and more, at a time when they need it the most,” said Senator Schumer. “I applaud the U.S. Department of Agriculture for swiftly assessing the damage to vineyards, wineries and orchards throughout the state following the freeze, and coming through with disaster designation.”