ALBANY, NY (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – Famers in 31 New York State counties got a major boost on Friday, August 18 with an announcement from Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Schumer and Gillibrand announced on Friday that the US Department of Agriculture has approved a request by the state’s Farm Service Agency request for a federal Agricultural Disaster Designation. The designation follows a freeze in May that destroyed thousands of acres of crops. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures dipped below freezing several times between Sunday, May 14 and Thursday, May 25. Schumer said in a statement that grapes and apples were hit particularly hard during the freeze, with vineyards across New York State reporting losses from five to 100 percent of their production.

“From the vineyards of the Finger Lakes to the orchards of the Capital Region, family-owned farms are the backbone of Upstate New York’s agriculture economy. But this past May they suffered from one of the most devastating deep freezes in recent memory, destroying thousands of acres of crops. I personally called Secretary Vilsack to emphasize how important a federal disaster designation is to providing critical relief to our Upstate growers, and now help is on the way,” Senator Schumer said in a statement. “I sincerely thank the USDA and Secretary Vilsack for heeding our calls and swiftly providing these growers with a Secretarial disaster designation to unlock these critical emergency relief funds, and I will continue to fight to deliver all of the federal support needed to impacted vineyards and orchards across Upstate NY.”

The designation has officially been approved for 31 counties across New York State, including Oneida, Herkimer and Otsego Counties. The designation will allow farm operators to be considered for low-interest emergency loans by the Farm Service Agency. Impacted producers will be able to borrow up to 100 percent of the actual amount of production or losses to an amount of $500,000.

The loans can be used to pay production costs, replace essential equipment, pay essential living expenses or reorganize farming. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for the loans.

“This past May’s deep freeze destroyed thousands upon thousands of acres of crops, threatening the livelihoods of farmers and their communities,” Senator Gillibrand said in a statement. “Senator Schumer and I called on USDA to approve New York’s application for Secretarial disaster application and I’m grateful to Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack for acting swiftly and decisively. This designation unlocks emergency relief funds for farm operators in eligible counties and my message to farmers is this: apply for this relief quickly and my office is here to support you.”

For more information, you are encouraged to contact your local Farm Service Agency office, which is listed below:

Oneida County:

9025 River Road in Marcy.

Phone Number: (315) 736-3316 ext 2

Herkimer County:

5653 State Route 5 in Herkimer.

Phone Number: (315) 866-2520

Otsego County:

967 County Highway 33 in Cooperstown.

Phone Number: (607) 547-8131