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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 24, 2004

Schumer: Payments Now Available To Wayne County Cherry Growers For Replanting Trees Damaged By Ice Storm

Applicants can now enroll in the program; Wayne County growers can go to local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office at 10 Leach Road in Lyons through May 14

Ice storm of April 2003 resulted in damage or destruction of 85 percent of Wayne County's cherry trees; Schumer and Rep. Walsh got money from federal program that reimburses tree replanting costs

US Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that applications are now being taken for the federal funds he helped secure for Wayne County growers who lost trees in the ice storm of April, 2003. Schumer said that Wayne County growers who seek the federal reimbursements from the federal Tree Assistance Program (TAP) can go to the local Farm Service Agency office at 10 Leach Road in Lyons or call 315-946-9912 to begin the application process. Growers in other counties can visit their local FSAs. The deadline is May 14.

"Today we finally heard what we've waited almost a year to hear – help for Wayne County growers is on the way," Schumer said. "Anyone who was in Wayne County right after that storm and saw the damage first-hand can tell you it was not your typical storm. Almost all of our cherry trees were toppled and the replanting costs our growers faced cried out for federal help. I'm happy to say the feds agreed with us and now I urge everyone who needs help to contact the local FSA as soon as possible."

As a result of the April ice storm, growers in Wayne County estimate that as many as 85 percent of the county’s 168,000 cherry trees were toppled or damaged by ice. Several local farmers rely on cherries for 10 to 30 percent of their incomes. Wayne County is the nation's third leading county for production of tart cherries and leading producer in New York. Sweet cherry, peach, pear, apple and plum trees were also destroyed. It takes up to eight years for replacement trees to produce salable fruit.

In an effort to secure federal reimbursements for Wayne County growers hit by the storm, Rep. Jim Walsh successfully got $5 million in TAP funds for Wayne County growers included in the omnibus appropriations bill and Schumer then persuaded Senate Democrats last month to pass it. The TAP program reimburses 75% of the cost of replanting trees lost due to a natural disaster, and provides payments up to $75,000 to compensate farmers for the capital loss of trees destroyed due to weather or disease.

Earlier this month, when USDA had not yet made the funds available, Schumer fired off a letter to USDA Secretary Ann Veneman saying that the money needed to be made available in time for growers to plant trees this year. "It is imperative for the future of New York fruit production that these funds are made available in time to plant replacement trees this spring, so that growers can avoid an even longer period of reduced income," Schumer wrote. "I urge you to make these funds available as soon as possible to the New York growers."

Schumer also said that after speaking with growers in Wayne County last month it became clear that they would have trouble meeting the usual 12 month deadline for replanting under the TAP program due to limited availability of replacement trees and the time required for nurseries to graft and produce more stock. In response, Schumer urged Veneman to extend the reimbursement period for the TAP funding for New York so that growers have sufficient time to procure replacement trees. Schumer said today that he will continue to push USDA for the extension.

While the vast majority of growers eligible for the funds are in Wayne County, others impacted may have been in Cayuga, Chenango, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Schenectady, Seneca, and Yates Counties. For more information or to apply for assistance, tree owners should contact their local FSA office. Additional information is available on FSA's web site at www.fsa.usda.gov

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