Agency announces additional crop loss declaration, lifting New York ingredient requirement and allowing farm wineries to temporarily source grapes or juice from outside of state
√ Says freeze/frost event in May significantly impacted growers across state
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball announced 31 counties across New York were designated as a primary natural disaster area by the U.S. Department of Agriculture following the late May frost/freeze event.
His team said, “These designations mean that impacted farmers in those areas may be eligible for assistance, including emergency loans, from the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). The department requested the disaster designation from the USDA through a joint letter with other states that are a part of the Northeastern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NEASDA).”
Ball said, “In the days following the unseasonable frost, we visited and spoke with a number of our growers across the state to understand the extent of the damage facing the industry. Many of them hadn’t seen frost conditions that late in the season in decades. We have been working with many partners since May to put together our request for a disaster designation and to secure the assistance needed to help our growers overcome this challenging time. We encourage our farms to take advantage of the emergency loans and to continue to report losses to lessen the impacts of this damaging severe weather event.”
A disaster declaration is based on reporting of crop loss to the federal Farm Service Agency. The USDA declared 31 counties in New York as primary natural disaster areas, and an additional 24 counties as contiguous disaster counties. Farmers in these counties who were impacted by the severe weather event may be considered for FSA emergency loans, provided eligibility requirements are met.
Erie and Niagara counties were named as contiguous.
Farmers will have eight months to apply for emergency loans and can do so with their local FSA office.
Crop Loss Declaration for Farm Wineries
In addition to the USDA disaster designation, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has also issued a crop loss declaration to help farm wineries impacted by the May freeze event sustain their business operations. The emergency declaration allows farm winery owners, licensed by the New York State Liquor Authority, to temporarily source grapes or juice from outside of New York through Dec. 31, 2023, while still maintaining their New York farm winery status and enabling them to continue to manufacture or sell wine produced from out‐of‐state grapes or juice for the impacted varietals.
Ball said, “This latest freeze event left our grape growers and farm wineries struggling with the potential of not having enough New York-grown grapes to maintain their farm winery license and thereby maintain their markets. By issuing this declaration, we can provide our farm wineries with a respite, allowing them to focus on making and selling their product this year, and preparing for next year’s growing season.”
State Liquor Authority Chair Lily M. Fan said, “A big thanks to Gov. Hochul and Commissioner Ball for taking immediate action to ensure our farm wineries can continue producing wine as they recover from freezing temperatures experienced in May. By their nature, farming and wine production are subject to the vagaries of the weather, and New York is committed to taking any actions available so they don’t have to carry the burden of natural crop disasters on their shoulders.”
Farm wineries can apply for the exemption here, and instructions for the application, including the mailing address, can be found here. The deadline to apply for the exemption is Oct. 31, 2023, and the deadline to purchase out-of-state grapes or juice is Dec. 31, 2023.
The department will host an industry-wide webinar on Wednesday, Sept. 13, to provide information on the application process and to answer any questions farm wineries may have. The webinar can be accessed via the following:
Webinar number: 161 819 5403
Webinar password: 2023WINE (20239463 from phones and video systems)
Join by phone: +1-518-549-0500 US (English menu) // access code: 161 819 5403
Sam Filler, executive director, New York Wine & Grape Foundation, said, “We appreciate Commissioner Ball’s commitment to our grape growers and farm wineries. The State Department of Agriculture and Markets responded quickly to this devastating weather event, visiting our vineyards this spring, advocating for disaster declaration funding, and issuing this exemption to the farm winery law.”
The department joined representatives from the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, New York Farm Bureau, the USDA FSA, Empire State Development, and Cornell Cooperative Extension to tour several vineyards in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions impacted by the freeze event in May. The group visited with grape growers in Steuben, Schuyler and Seneca counties to assess the damage in the region and better understand the outlook and plan for recovery.
According to the department’s division of emergency management and Cornell Cooperative Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN), during the reporting period of May 15-25, New York experienced extremely low temperatures, which resulted in frost damage to a number of crops throughout many regions of the state. Reports of damage included vineyards in the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and Hudson Valley, and other commodities, such as apples, peaches and other stone fruit, and berries in several other regions, including the North Country, Central New York, Capital Region and Hudson Valley areas.
The department is also assessing the impact of crop loss for farm cideries.
The USDA FSA recommends that farmers affected by the freeze should document their conditions (pictures and video) and any losses. Farmers can file a CCC- 576 (notice of loss) with their local USDA FSA. Contact information for the offices can be found here.
New York is the third-largest grape producer and the third-largest wine producer in the country. According to the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, these growers generate a $6.65 billion economic impact for New York. There are 471 wineries in the state, growing a variety of grapes on 35,000 acres.