The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued federal agriculture disaster declarations for New York counties that experienced crop damage as a result of a spring freeze.
Senator Gillibrand recently called on USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to issue disaster declarations so that farmers across New York State can access federal funds to help them recover losses and stay afloat this season.
"Farmers across New York who were still recovering from last year's natural disasters risk losing an entire season worth of crops again," Gillibrand said in a news release. "These disaster declarations are a good first step 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."
New York State Senator Young organized 22 other senators to ask Governor Andrew Cuomo's help for growers across the state whose crops were damaged by freezing temperatures recently. As a result, Governor Cuomo sent a letter to the US Department of Agriculture asking for a disaster declaration.
"The declaration will allow farmers in need of extra help to qualify for grants and loans," Young said. "This aid will ease the difficult burden facing our growers and ensure that our agriculture sector remains a vital part of the state economy. ... Our agricultural producers are the mainstay of our upstate economy. We need to do everything we can at the state and federal levels to help mitigate their losses and keep them operating and producing crops to meet demand for our products around the world."
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 a 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 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.
There were three separate disaster declarations.
In the first declaration, Chautauqua, Erie and Cattaraugus counties were among the primary counties included for frost and freezes that began March 1.
In the second declaration, Erie County was declared a contiguous county for frost and freezes unseasonably warm temperatures, and excessive heat that occurred during the period of March 26 through April 30.
In the third declaration, Cattaraugus County was declared a contiguous county for natural disaster areas due to losses caused by frosts and freezes unseasonably warm temperatures and excessive heat that occurred March 1 to April 30.
"Our hearts go out to the farmers and growers who are dealing with the loss of crops due to recent severe weather," Vilsack said in a separate news release. "President Obama and I are committed to using the resources at our disposal to reduce the impact of these disasters on New York producers and to help get those affected back on their feet."
Sen. Charles Schumer also applauded the move.
"An unseasonably warm winter gave way to deep freezes that left our fruit farmers in a rut, but help is now on the way," he said. "After talking with grape, apple, cherry and other farmers, I immediately went to bat with USDA because it was clear our farmers needed help. This aid and these loans will go a long way toward helping our farmers weather the tough season, and I'm hopeful they're going to bounce back in no time."