The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has declared an “agricultural disaster” in 19 upstate New York counties following a “long and bitter” cold winter which has left the region’s vines in tatters.
Last month Senator Charles E. Schumer called for the USDA to declare a crop disaster to allow vineyards which had suffered bud and trunk damage to claim financial assistance through the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) – part of the recently passed Farm Bill – to claim emergency loans through the USDA to replant crops.
However the extent of the damage could not be fully assessed until the Spring when the vines emerge from dormancy.
An agricultural disaster has since been declared by the USDA – a decision that will allow winemakers and vineyards to apply for aid from an emergency loan scheme to rebuild their battered crops.
In statement US senator Kirsten Gillibrand said: “When New York’s farmers struggle, our entire economy struggles.
“This long and bitter cold winter has been extremely harmful to grape growers and vineyards. Losing out on these crops will set them behind all season, and hurt local businesses and jobs at a time we just can’t afford anymore setbacks.
“This is the step we need to get federal resources on the ground so we can help our farms recover, and grow our economy.”
Upstate New York is home to nearly 900 vineyards which together contribute around US$830 million to the economy annually.
Some vineyards have reported bud loss of 50% or more due to the severe cold weather caused by a Polar Vortex which slammed into the east coast of America early this year breaking US temperature records with places experiencing temperatures 40 degrees Fahrenheit colder than average.
According to a report by The New York Post, farmers in the Finger Lakes are expecting to have lost between 75 and 90% of their crops due to “bud injury”.
The disaster area covers the counties of Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Oswego, Yates, Allegany, Cortland, Erie, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins, Wayne and Wyoming counties – all of which will be eligible to claim support.
The financial assistance programme covers up to 65% of the cost of replanting, and 50% of the cost for pruning and vine removal.