Legislators support aid for apple crop damage

Political leaders are calling for something to be done to aid apple farmers whose crop has been dama

Political leaders are calling for something to be done to aid apple farmers whose crop has been damaged by this spring’s weather fluctuations.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Friday called for a federal disaster declaration for upstate fruit farmers because of damage done by frost that followed an early spring bloom.

Several state legislators, meanwhile, plan to propose a bill that would help apple growers.

Gillibrand is asking U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to make a disaster declaration for 34 counties from western New York to the Hudson Valley, including the Capital Region.

A federal disaster declaration would allow New York farmers to access federal funds to help them recover losses. The request for help must come from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but Gillibrand said the process is under way.

“Still recovering from last year’s back-to-back natural disasters, farmers across the state were hit again with late frost that’s costing them even more crops,” she said in a statement. “We need to open up access to federal resources so these farmers can get back to business.”

Among the places she cited are Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie, Saratoga, Albany and Rensselaer counties.

In May, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called for a disaster declaration for upstate agricultural areas.

Local state legislators including Assemblymen Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, and Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, and state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna, will hold a news conference Sunday in Rexford to announce the proposed “Family Farmers and Apple Growers Relief Act.” A representative of Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Patty Ritchie, R-Oswegatchie, is also expected to attend.

Details of the legislation weren’t being released Friday, but it is expected to propose ways the state could help financially.

“We want to show that state government has their backs,” said Adam Kramer, a spokesman for Tedisco.

Apple farmers say they suffered unusual harm this year because warm temperatures early in the spring caused trees to blossom early, and that was followed by heavy frosts. Then, this week, some Capital Region orchards had their trees hit by hail.

Across the state, more than 3 million acres of farmland have experienced a loss of 30 percent or greater, according to Gillibrand. She said some farms suffered 100 percent losses, including some struggling to recover from the damage of tropical storms Irene and Lee.

Categories: Business, Schenectady County

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