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Relief coming for farmers impacted by April freeze

Rep. Nick Langworthy discusses “The GRAPE Act” which is part of the proposed Farm Bill.

Federal relief is coming for area farmers whose crops were impacted by a late April freeze.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Nick Langworthy announced disaster relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for local grape growers in the Lake Erie Grape Belt who experienced major crop losses as a result of an unexpected freeze on April 25. Langworthy led efforts to secure relief for these grape growers, previously sending a letter requesting USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack approve New York State’s disaster declaration.

“Since the April 25th freeze, I’ve been in constant contact with local grape growers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure we get the necessary support for our farmers who were hit hard by this unexpected weather event,” said Congressman Langworthy. “Securing this disaster relief is a critical step in helping our grape growers recover and continue their vital contributions to our local economy and the Concord grape industry. These devastating circumstances are what led me to introduce the GRAPE ACT, which will provide affordable, comprehensive crop insurance for grape growers, building resilience for the future.”

In a document prepared by Dr. Terry Bates with Cornell Cooperative Extension during a meeting in Portland last month, the damage was much worse on the eastern side of Chautauqua County along Lake Erie than the western side. Projected crop loss ranges from around 15-20% at the state border in Ripley, to 50-75% in Westfield, to 80-100% near Silver Creek. By comparison, 0-5% of the grape crop near North East, Pa. may have been affected by the freeze.

Bates said the primary shoots were the most damaged. Grapes have secondary shoots, but they seem to be heavily damaged as well. “We’re seeing the secondaries, the clusters don’t look very good,” he said.

According to the USDA, a Secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and those counties contiguous to such primary counties eligible to be considered for FSA emergency loans, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans. FSA considers each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses on the farm and the security and repayment ability of the operator.

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