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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 4, 2012

SCHUMER: FARMS ACROSS THE HUDSON VALLEY STILL RECOVERING FROM TROPICAL STORMS BUT NEW ROUND OF FEDERAL AID COULD BRING RELIEF – URGES FEDS TO INVEST IN NEW PROGRAM AT CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA TO HELP FARMERS BOUNCE BACK



Schumer Helped Secure $200 Million In Federal Funds To Help Disaster Regions Rebuild Their Economy – CIA Would Use Funding For New Center To Link Local Farms With NY Food Companies to Revitalize Their Business

Schumer Urges Economic Development Administration To Provide Funding To Help New HV Food & Beverage Cluster Group Launch Venture at Culinary Institute of America In Poughkeepsie

Schumer: Linking Farmers With NY’s Leading Food Companies Will Bring Them Back From Irene & Lee

 

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to provide funding to the Hudson Valley Food & Beverage Alliance for its plan to launch a new coalition and facility to help local flood-ridden farmers recover from last fall’s tropical storms and develop new business opportunities with New York food companies. Specifically, the HV Food and Beverage Alliance would use the EDA investment to help fund a new center at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Poughkeepsie that would create a link between local farms with local food companies, to help revitalize their businesses. In early March, Schumer helped secure $200 million in federal flood aid that had been tied up in bureaucratic red tape for months, making it available to disaster counties like those in New York. The Hudson Valley Food and Beverage Alliance, part of the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC), can now apply for these federal funds, which are available on a competitive basis to boost job-creating projects in flood-damaged areas.

 

“Farmers across the Hudson Valley were walloped by last year’s flooding and the Culinary Institute of America has a unique opportunity to help them rebuild,” said Schumer. “The Empire State is blessed with a wide range of world-class food companies, and they have to get their product from somewhere, so it might as well be right here in New York. The new CIA center would be a one-stop shop to link farmers who badly need a boost with companies who need their products. It’s a win-win for our companies and our farmers, and it’s a smart federal investment that will help our local economy bounce back from the storms. I’m strongly urging the EDA to invest in this new center that will not only help our recovery in the short term, but provide key support to farmers for years to come.”

 

Schumer today backed a plan to create a new facility at the Culinary Institute of America that is designed to help farmers link up with New York food and beverage producers, like Dannon and Pepsi, and develop business relationships to help those farmers bounce back from the devastating tropical storms of last year. Schumer strongly supports the Alliance’s application and is urging the EDA to select this project that will invest in the Culinary Institute of America’s development of this training center. Schumer visited the Wigsten Farm, which suffered severe damage in Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, and was joined by officials from The Culinary Institute of America, Hudson Valley Economic Development President Mike Oates and farmers from throughout the Hudson Valley as he announced his support for the Hudson Valley Food and Beverage Alliance’s application.

 

Schumer said that he supported the HVEDC’s Hudson Valley Food and Beverage Alliance’s efforts to aid farmers whose net production was hampered due to damage from Tropical Storm Irene. Under the proposal, the HVEDC will connect local farmers with NYS food and beverage distributors, such as Pespi and Dannon, in addition to smaller manufacturers who provide auxiliary services to the regional food industry. These timely connections between economically-distressed farmers and local businesses would be coupled with innovative training opportunities at the CIA’s new center that will revive generations-old agricultural mainstays in the Hudson Valley, such as Wigsten Farm.

 

The CIA and HVEDC plan to use federal funds to help finance the construction of a physical headquarters for the HV Food and Beverage Alliance. The center will offer networking and business opportunities to give farmers access to new markets, consumers and revenue streams. The center will give farmers the ability to interact and create business relationships with globally recognized and world-wide companies such as Pepsi, Heineken and Dannon. Schumer noted that by fostering these relationships, farmers will have the ability to offer their products to these companies and have special access as local farmers to provide produce needs to these companies.

 

The center will also offer farmers the necessary resources to recover from Tropical Storm Irene, sustain their current farming operation as well as expand and create new economic opportunities for local farmers. The center will offer technical support for farmers and as well as scientific data and market research to make their crops and yields more efficient. For instance, working with industry experts, the center will be able to offer farmers information on which crops interact well with one another, which cash crops may affect their current crops and which high-demand and emerging specialty crops may be best suited for their specific farm.

The proposed CIA center and food and beverage alliance will offer networking events, workshops and workforce development based on the individual and collective needs of local farmers who are recovering from the storm. The center will also act as a hub for farmers to have direct access to professional business training, services and resources and will offer farmers assistance in identifying, applying for, and being awarded all sources of government, private and not for profit funding sources. Finally, the center will also give farmers, both recovering from the storm and new developing farmers, access to business training and resources in the field of finance, taxation, human resources, workforce management, marketing and advertising, government relations and public affairs and other business-related services needed to sustain, compete and grow in the local and national markets.

Schumer noted that Wigsten Farms and dozens of other damaged farms throughout the Hudson Valley stand to benefit from the proposed center. Wigsten Farm has been a mainstay of Dutchess County agriculture since 1930 and was severely impacted in the Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, including severe crop damage. Cornell-trained, third generation farmer, Paul Wigsten, says this is the worst season on record. He lost two tons of winter squash to the compost pile as a result of flooding and his shipments of heirloom tomatoes to restaurants and purveyors were cut to a fraction of normal activity. Other losses are still difficult to estimate.

 

In November 2011, Schumer helped pass legislation that included billions of dollars in disaster funding, which would help New Yorkers recover from Tropical Storms Irene and Lee. That Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations “mini-bus” legislation included $200 million appropriated for the EDA to distribute to disaster-ridden counties. The EDA will be able to use this funding to provide financial resources and technical assistance to help rebuild economic development and provide grants to build new infrastructure, like basic utilities, research facilities, and businesses that foster economic development to retain or attract jobs to the region.

 

The EDA plays a critical “second responder role” in addition to FEMA, in helping local governments weather the storm and provide emergency funding for repairs. Schumer’s push to secure a $200 million lifeline in the FY12 Appropriations “mini-bus” legislation funds a variety of EDA projects in the wake of these major disasters. Specifically, EDA can be tasked with the following projects in the wake of a major disaster, which fit perfectly with the stated goals of the CIA farming center.

 

1.)    Strategic Planning: EDA offers financial resources and technical assistance to help develop and enhance economic development plans following a disaster. This is achieved through the funding of disaster recovery plans, strategies, and funding for disaster recovery coordinators.

 

2.)    Infrastructure Development: EDA offers grant funds to build new infrastructure (e.g., business incubators, technology parks, research facilities, basic utilities such as water treatment) that foster economic development to retain or attract jobs to the region.

 

3.)    Capital for Alternative Financing: Through EDA’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program, non-profit and governmental entities can apply to establish an RLF which in turn makes below market-rate loans to businesses to help recovery

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