Schumer demands disaster aid for vineyards hit by cold weather

Lauren Schneiderman

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for Department of Agriculture disaster assistance for Northeast vineyards that have been hit hard by this season’s extreme winter weather.

Schumer said several New York vineyards have suffered major crop damage from the unusually cold weather, and the USDA could help through the Tree Assistance Program (TAP). The USDA could also approve a crop disaster declaration, which would allow vineyards to qualify for emergency loans.

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“This year there is widespread concern that the extraordinarily cold winter could dramatically reduce their crop and that growers won’t have the cash flow to replant damaged vines and purchase alternate juice to continue wine production on schedule,” Schumer said Monday.

The Tree Assistance Program was just passed as part of the five-year farm bill and provides reimbursements to growers who suffer extensive damage to the trunks of their grape vines because of extreme weather.

The damage has not yet been assessed, but in a letter, Schumer told Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to be ready so his department could quickly turn around aid.

“Unfortunately, a complete damage survey of grape vines and buds cannot be completed until the late spring, when the 2014 growing season is well underway,” Schumer said. “So, the U.S. Department of Agriculture must be on the ready. … With spring and growing season on the horizon, the USDA needs to marshal its resources — prime the TAP so to speak — and be ready to provide swift relief to these growers.”