U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today released their letter to Senate leaders requesting funding for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and the Emergency Watershed Program (EWP) to give New York's agricultural communities more of the resources they need to recover from Hurricane Irene. Current USDA estimates put the need for ECP at $106 million for this fiscal year, including $2.5 million for New York, which is expected to rise as damage from Irene continues to be assessed. Both programs are currently experiencing a backlog of funding requests, including an estimate of $77 million for the ECP and $139 million for the EWP.
"Farms from the Hudson Valley to the Catskills, and Schoharie up through the North Country got the brunt of Irene's wrath, damaging farms, killing livestock, spoiling milk and soaking fields," said Schumer. "Now that the waters have receded, it's our job to fight for every last penny of aid to help our farmers rebuild. Agriculture is a key part of our economy and our way of life in Upstate New York, and we have to do everything possible to bring farms back from this devastation and help them succeed again."
"New York's farmland endured some of the worst of Hurricane Irene, and much of our farmland is badly damaged," Senator Gillibrand said. "When our farm families suffer, our whole state and whole economy suffers. We need to provide our farm communities with all the resources we need to dig out from these devastating storms. I will fight to secure every necessary federal resource to aid in our recovery."
Farmland spanning from Long Island, the Hudson Valley, the Mohawk Valley, the Capital Region and into the North Country are badly damaged from floods that left fields submerged in water and swept livestock away, high winds that leveled crops, and power outages that left dairy farmers unable to milk their cows. Last week, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand wrote to Secretary Vilsack urging him to issue an agricultural disaster declaration for counties in these regions to expedite the release of the federal aid that New York's farmers need to recover. Secretary Vilsack toured the damage of New York farms this past weekend.
The Senators' full letter to Agriculture Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO):
Dear Chairman Kohl and Ranking Member Blunt, ? ?
We are writing to you today concerning the grave and immediate need for disaster aid for New York State's counties recently hit by Hurricane Irene. Agriculture communities that were just recovering from the heavy rains in April were again hit by this tragic weather event and are now facing devastating losses to crops, livestock and property. We are asking for your assistance including emergency funds for the Emergency Conservation Program and the Emergency Watershed Program. Both of these programs are out of sufficient funds and have a back log from previous natural disasters this year.??
One of the hardest hit agricultural sectors in New York State has been the dairy industry in the Capital Region. Because of lost roads and bridges, milk delivery trucks have not be able to pick up milk from dairies, forcing dairy farmers to dump their milk. Additionally, dairy farms have experienced herd losses due to flooding. In Schoharie County alone, four dairies were completely or significantly destroyed and field crops countywide had a significant or total loss. All field crops and vegetable crops in Schoharie River valley were totally lost. Other badly damaged agricultural counties include Greene, Suffolk, Orange, Ulster, Chenango, Otsego, Broome, Tioga, Delaware, Washington, Clinton, and Dutchess. ? ?
During these difficult economic times with volatility in many agricultural markets, especially dairy, these farmers who have faced significant or total farm and home loss due to Hurricane Irene critically need the federal government's emergency assistance. Without some financial help, hundreds of New York farms are at risk of going out of business which would have negative repercussions throughout rural New York. Farms are the economic anchors of rural America, and they need our full and swift action. ??
Specifically, we are asking for emergency appropriations funding for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) which is has a backlog of $77 million in unfunded requests. Current USDA estimates put the need for ECP at $106 million for this fiscal year, including $2.5 million for New York, and that number is expected to rise as damage is further documented. Similarly, we are requesting ample Emergency Watershed Program (EWP) funding to not only fund the backlog of applications which stands at $139 million but also those hardest hit by Hurricane Irene. We look forward to working together on helping restore New York's agricultural sector to its recent productivity.