N.Y. (WETM) — The USDA designated half of New York’s counties as natural disaster areas less than one week after New York State officials asked the federal organization to assist New York farmers affected by May’s crop freezes.

On Aug. 14, the New York State Farm Service Agency (NYS FSA), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand publicly asked the USDA for a Secretarial Disaster Declaration to make loans available to New York farmers that had significant portions of their crops destroyed by late freezes. The USDA honored this request on Aug. 18 by declaring 31 counties across New York State as primary disaster areas. An additional 24 counties were declared to be contiguous disaster counties.

“In the days following the unseasonable frost, we visited and spoke with a number of our growers across the State to understand the extent of the damage facing the industry,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “Many of them hadn’t seen frost conditions that late in the season in decades.  We have been working with many partners since May to put together our request for a disaster designation and to secure the assistance needed to help our growers overcome this challenging time.”

Farmers who were affected by the May frosts and live in these 56 counties, which include Chemung, Steuben, Schuyler, and Tioga, are eligible to be considered for Farm Service Agency emergency loans. Farmers have eight months to apply for emergency loans through their local FSA offices.

“We encourage our farms to take advantage of the emergency loans and to continue to report losses to lessen the impacts of this damaging severe weather event,” said Ball.

Grape farmers may be eligible for additional assistance. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets issued a declaration to help farm wineries that are licensed by the New York State Liquor Authority. These wineries can temporarily source grapes or juice from other states through the end of the year while still maintaining their New York farm winery statuses. This will allow wineries to continue to produce and sell wines made from grape varieties that were damaged by the May frosts.

Farm wineries can apply for the option to purchase out-of-state grapes here and view application instructions here.