N.Y. (WETM) — A late freeze this spring caused major damage to fruit crops across Upstate New York. The New York State Farm Service Agency (NYS FSA), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to approve emergency federal funds to help farmers who suffered severe crop loss.
“Upstate New York’s vineyards and orchards are the beating heart of our agricultural and tourism economy, but now as harvest season begins we are beginning to see the severe impacts of this past May’s deep freeze,” said Schumer. “We can’t leave New York’s beautiful orchards and renowned wine country out in the cold right as harvest season begins. The USDA must do everything in their power to provide swift relief to our hardworking growers and I will keep fighting to deliver that support.”
According to Schumer’s office, frosts that occurred between May 14 and May 25 damaged fruit crops in 31 counties across the state. Thousands of acres of grapes, apples, strawberries, blueberries, and more fruits were destroyed by late frosts. Grape and apple crops were hit the hardest overall. In both Chemung and Tioga Counties, 30% or more of apple and blueberry crops were lost. Schuyler County lost 30% or more of its grape and apple crops, and Steuben County lost at least 30% of its grapes.
After the May frosts, Schumer and Gillibrand wrote to the Secretary of Agriculture asking the USDA to be prepared to work with farmers. Now, the NYS FSA Director has officially requested a Secretarial Disaster Declaration from the USDA. This declaration would make critical relief, including low-interest loans, available to farmers impacted by the frosts. Farmers would be able to borrow up to 100% of the losses the frost caused. The loans could be worth up to $500,000. The USDA funding could be used for essential family living expenses, farm reorganization, production costs, or essential property replacement or restoration.
“With farmers still suffering from the staggering crop losses from the May freeze, it is imperative USDA expeditiously approve a Secretarial Disaster Declaration for the 31 impacted counties,” said Gillibrand. “I will continue to fight for our farmers to get the assistance they need.”
New York State is the second-largest producer of apples in the United States and the third-largest producer of grapes. According to Schumer’s office, these industries employ nearly 100,00 New Yorkers and generate $11.5 billion annually.