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Finger Lakes, Southern Tier seek agriculture disaster designation after frost damage

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  • Staff Report 

Half of New York, including the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes, is petitioning the USDA for an Agriculture Disaster Designation following a detrimental early season frost in May.


Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand advocate for the designation, emphasizing the grave repercussions of the freeze on the state’s agricultural sector, especially vineyards and orchards.

Schumer detailed that the May frost led to up to 95 percent crop losses in some zones, with apples and grapes being the hardest hit. Some grape growers reported total losses due to the frost.

The USDA’s guidelines may permit affected growers to utilize emergency loans for restoration, cost coverage, and other essential needs.

Schumer underscored the direness of the situation, relaying accounts from Finger Lakes farmers describing the frost as the harshest they’ve witnessed, causing significant damage to nearly every vineyard in the area. With innovative measures taken by farmers to mitigate the frost’s impact, such as using tractors and wind turbines for airflow and burning hay for warmth, the urgency for federal aid remains.

Notably, New York ranks as the third-largest producer of grapes, grape juice, and wine in the U.S., significantly contributing to the state’s economy by employing around 100,000 individuals and generating approximately $11.5 billion annually.