N.Y. Gov. Pataki Requests Aid for Farmers

September 17, 2004

New York Gov. George Pataki has requested disaster assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for farms in 42 counties that have been adversely affected by weather this growing season.

The Governor made the announcement following a tour of CY Farms in Genesee County – one of many farms across Upstate that have reportedly been damaged by the severe weather.

“The constant rain and other adverse weather conditions that occurred this summer have made this one of the most challenging seasons ever for farmers across the State,” the Governor said. “The large amount of rain we’ve received this summer damaged crops and resulted in lower than normal crop yields and this is clearly having a negative financial affect on our farmers.”

“By requesting this Federal assistance, we will ensure that New York’s farms are eligible for critical Federal assistance that can help our farmers cope with this difficult situation,” the Governor added.

This request for disaster assistance is the Governor’s third request this season. The Governor previously sent letters to USDA Secretary Veneman on April 27 for extreme cold and frost, and July 14 for rain, hail and high winds. This most recent request addresses counties adversely affected by excessive rain and flooding, and brings the total number of counties adversely affected by weather this year to 42 statewide.

Since early this spring, New York State has received excessive amounts of rain with counties reporting anywhere from 5 to 12 inches above normal since April. Counties included in the disaster assistance request include: Albany, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Clinton, Columbia, Dutchess, Erie, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Montgomery, Monroe, Nassau, Niagara, Oneida, Ontario, Orange, Orleans, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Suffolk, Sullivan, Tompkins, Ulster, Washington, Wayne, Westchester, Wyoming and Yates.

U.S. Representative Thomas Reynolds said, “The heavy rains this summer had far-reaching effects, impacting farms all across Western New York and New York State. Agriculture is our state’s number one industry, and we need to do all we can to help our farmers that were hurt by the poor conditions this summer. This request for federal assistance is an important first step in aiding these farms in their recovery.”

Excessive rain presents a host of problems for farmers, ranging from difficulty working in the fields due to mud, to the introduction of pests, fungus and rot associated with wet growing conditions, to the loss of quality and quantity of crops harvested. Crops most heavily affected by the rain this season include hay, field crops and annual vegetable crops.

In addition to the challenges associated with the rain, grape farmers are reportedly having an exceptionally difficult year as many of the vines and buds, which would have borne fruit this year were destroyed due to the extreme cold temperatures last winter. New York’s grape harvest is currently underway and it is estimated to be 25 percent smaller than last year.

If the requested counties receive a disaster designation from the USDA, farmers within those counties and the counties contiguous to the designated counties will be eligible to be considered for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency (FSA). FSA considers each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available, repayment ability, and other eligibility requirements.

Since 1995, Gov. Pataki has cut school property taxes for farmers up to 100 percent; slashed workers’ compensation rates for farmers by more than 25 percent; reportedly strengthened New York’s agricultural district laws; introduced the Pride of New York Program; helped protect approximately 28,000 acres from development in perpetuity by devoting a total of $68 million to farmland protection projects and committed $4.1 million for nearly 180 agricultural projects under his Grow New York initiative.

Agriculture is a $3 billion industry in New York. The sale of New York vegetables generated $321 million last year, ranking New York sixth in the nation for fresh market and eighth for processed. New York is the second largest cabbage producer, third largest for sweet corn, fourth for snap beans and fifth for peas, cauliflower and squash.

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