Assemblyman Joe Giglio (R-Gowanda) has called on United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Mike Johanns to designate parts of the Southern Tier as federal agricultural disaster areas in the wake of a severe frost that has crippled grape production for many growers.
In a letter written to Secretary Johanns, Giglio stated that frost damage during the period from April 25 to April 27, 2006 had significantly damaged grape buds in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Erie Counties.
“The loss of the 2006 grape crop, especially after a poor 2005 season could devastate the industry and have a detrimental effect on the economies of the Southern Tier and New York State,” said Giglio, who represents all of Cattaraugus County and parts of Chautauqua County.
If the three counties are declared a federal agricultural disaster area, farmers will be eligible to apply for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency. The FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available, repayment ability, and other eligibility requirements.
“We need the USDA to step in and give these farmers the opportunity to apply for some much needed assistance,” said Giglio. “Grape production is an important part of our community which is why we need the help now.”
The affected counties are responsible for approximately 68% of New York’s grapes that are used for juice and wine production. In 2004, these counties produced 95,000 tons of grapes, valued at $19.5 million.