(WKBW release) U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer on Thursday called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prepare to grant an anticipated request for emergency assistance for fruit farmers across New York who suffered damage in recent freezes, which followed suddenly after an unseasonably warm winter.
According to a news release from Schumer's office:
As damage assessments continue throughout the state, Schumer, in a personal letter, urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to put resources in place to assist farmers who lost crops during the freezes. An emergency declaration for counties with severe crop damage would make farmers in those counties eligible for emergency disaster loans to mitigate the cash flow problems that occur after crops are lost due to inclement weather. Due to the damage to farms across the state, Schumer is urging the USDA to prepare to immediately grant the state’s anticipated request for an emergency declaration to make aid available to impacted farmers as soon as possible.
“The recent freezes came out of the blue – after a very warm winter – and severely impacted many fruit farmers across New York,” said Schumer. “I strongly urge the USDA not to leave these farmers out in the cold, and instead to lend a helping hand to those who were hammered by crop-damaging early frosts. Our grape, cherry, and apple farmers, who suffered during this yo-yo weather, deserve emergency loans to help them through the rough season ahead.”
If a county is declared a disaster area by the Secretary of Agriculture, after a request from the state, agricultural producers in that county become eligible for emergency disaster (EM) loans available through USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Producers in counties that are contiguous to a county with a disaster designation also become eligible for an EM loan. A qualified applicant can then borrow up to 100% of actual production or physical losses as up to $500,000. Once a county is declared eligible, an individual producer within the county must also meet the following requirements:
• Be a family farmer and a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S.
• Experience a crop loss of more than 30% or a physical loss of livestock, livestock products, real estate, or property
• Be unable to obtain credit from a commercial lender, but still show the capacity to repay the loan
Applications must be received within eight months of the county’s disaster designation date. The full extent of the damage is still being compiled, but Schumer us urging the USDA to prepare to grant the request so that the delivery of emergency loans is not delayed. According to local USDA officials, the following counties have experienced 30% damage to at least one crop to trigger a designation: Albany, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Monroe, Niagara, Ontario, Orange, Orleans, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, Ulster, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates. In addition, data is being gathered to determine if the following counties will also be eligible for emergency assistance: Broome, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Clinton, Erie, Essex, Fulton, Madison, Montgomery, Onondaga, Rockland, Oswego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Tompkins and Washington.