After a spring freeze that destroyed cropland on farms stretching from Western New York to the Hudson Valley, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York's first member of the Senate Agriculture Committee in four decades, is calling on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to declare 34 New York counties as federal disaster areas.
In a letter to Secretary Vilsack, Senator Gillibrand pressed for the disaster declarations so New York farmers can access federal funds to help them recover losses and stay afloat this season.
"For New York State's economy to grow, we need our farms to thrive," Senator Gillibrand said. "Still recovering from last year's back-to-back natural disasters, farmers across the state were hit again with late frost that's costing them even more crops. We need to open up access to federal resources so these farmers can get back to business, and keep New York's agricultural industry on the move."
After a winter of record high temperatures, many crops on New York farms blossomed earlier than usual. Many of these crops were then exposed to early spring freezing temperatures, and were destroyed as a result. Across the state, more than 3 million acres of farmland have experienced 30 percent loss or greater, while many farms suffered 100 percent losses, including farms that were still struggling to recover from the damage of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
Federal agriculture disaster recovery programs can provide a variety of tools to assist farmers in overcoming the challenges they can face as they work to recover from production and physical losses on their farms and rebuild their business, including financial assistance to compensate for farm losses, low interest emergency loans, and assistance in rehabilitating farm land.
Senator Gillibrand is requesting federal disaster declarations for the following counties: Albany, Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Clinton, Columbia, Dutchess, Erie, Essex, Fulton, Greene, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Niagara, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Orleans, Oswego, Rensselear, Rockland, Saratoga, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, Tompkins, Ulster, Washington, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates.
Senator Gillibrand's complete letter to Secretary Vilsack:
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
I am writing today to urge you to designate a federal natural disaster declaration for 34 counties in New York State who some have incurred significant damage as a result of freezing weather this spring. Governor Cuomo has requested from you USDA disaster declarations for 34 counties in New York State for over 3 million farmland acres which have experienced a 30% or greater loss of crops due to this bad weather. These counties represent $2.09 billion in agricultural production to New York's economy each year. In the Lake Erie Grape belt alone, over $13 million has been estimated in market value loss.
This winter, New York State experienced record breaking high temperatures, resulting in early budding of crops. Therefore when the spring freezes arrived, the "king blossoms" were in full bloom, meaning the crop losses have been devastating. On many farms, crop losses have reached 100%.
New York farmers are still recovering from devastating damage brought on by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee last fall. For this reason, we ask that you act expeditiously to grant a disaster designation for affected counties in order to provide farmers with prompt access to the financial and technical assistance they need to recover from the freeze. These programs can provide the critical assistance farmers need in overcoming the challenges they will face in the coming weeks and months as they work to recover from production loses on their farms.
Thank you for your consideration of this very important issue. I look forward to working together to give New York farmers the support they need in this time of need.