Skip to content


Late May Frost Wreaked Havoc On Orchards & Vineyards From The Rochester-Finger Lakes Region To The Hudson Valley, Southern Tier and Capital Region Destroying Grapes, Apples, Strawberries, Blueberries, And Other Crops Key To Upstate Agriculture Economy

Schumer Personally Called USDA Secretary Vilsack To Advocate For Upstate NY, And Working With Gillibrand Fought Non-Stop To Deliver Fed Disaster Funding For Farmers In 31 Upstate Counties, And 24 Contiguous Counties Who Experienced Major Losses

Schumer, Gillibrand: Federal Disaster Designation Will Help Upstate Orchards & Vineyards Start On Long Road To Recovery After Devastating May Frost

Following their repeated calls earlier this year, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the New York State Farm Service Agency’s (NYS FSA) request for a federal Agricultural Disaster Designation following this past May’s deep freeze that destroyed thousands of acres of crops for 31 counties across Upstate New York. Schumer personally called USDA Secretary Vilsack to advocate on New York’s behalf, and working with Senator Gillibrand fought to deliver the disaster designation for NY. The senators said Upstate NY suffered major crop damage from the extreme cold weather this past May, destroying grapes, apples, strawberries, blueberries, and other crops vital to the Upstate NY economy, and that with harvest season just beginning, this relief will be critical to supporting impacted farmers on the long road to recovery.   

"From the vineyards of the Finger Lakes to the orchards of the Capital Region, family owned farms are the backbone of Upstate New York’s agriculture economy. But this past May they suffered from one of the most devastating deep freezes in recent memory, destroying thousands of acres of crops. I personally called Secretary Vilsack to emphasize how important a federal disaster designation is to providing critical relief to our Upstate growers, and now help is on the way,” said Senator Schumer. “I sincerely thank the USDA and Secretary Vilsack for heeding our calls and swiftly providing these growers with a Secretarial disaster designation to unlock these critical emergency relief funds, and I will continue to fight to deliver all of the federal support needed to impacted vineyards and orchards across Upstate NY.”

“This past May’s deep freeze destroyed thousands upon thousands of acres of crops, threatening the livelihoods of farmers and their communities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Senator Schumer and I called on USDA to approve New York’s application for Secretarial disaster application and I’m grateful to Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack for acting swiftly and decisively. This designation unlocks emergency relief funds for farm operators in eligible counties and my message to farmers is this: apply for this relief quickly and my office is here to support you.”

Jim Barber, New York State Executive Director of the USDA Farm Service Agency said, "The FSA Team here in New York has been and will continue to support producers as they recover from the impacts of the frost  and freeze in May. This Secretarial designation provides one more option in our suite of financial assistance programs. Farmers who suffered crop loss from the frost/freeze event may be eligible for low interest emergency loans. I encourage farmers to contact one of our service centers for information and I thank Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for their continued support of the New York's agriculture community and the producers we serve."

Sam Filler, Executive Director, New York Wine & Grape Foundation, said, “We appreciate Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand’s support for New York’s grape growers and wineries. They responded quickly to this devastating weather event by immediately advocating for disaster declaration funding and continued advocacy with USDA over the past three months.  Their support was key to ensure that New York’s grape and wine industry receives the needed disaster federal resources to help them cope with the expected financial losses due to their crop losses .”

The senators said that a Secretarial disaster designation has officially been approved for 31 counties including Albany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Columbia, Cortland, Dutchess, Greene, Jefferson, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Washington, Wayne and Westchester and Yates. The senators also said that an additional 24 counties across Upstate NY have been designated by the USDA as contiguous disaster counties including: Allegany, Fulton, Madison, Orange, Bronx, Genesee, Monroe, Rockland, Chenango, Hamilton, Montgomery, St. Lawrence, Delaware, Herkimer, Nassau, Sullivan, Erie, Lewis, Niagara, Warren, Essex, Livingston, Oneida, and Wyoming.

A Secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and counties contiguous eligible to be considered for critical low-interest FSA Emergency Loans. Impacted NY producers will be able to borrow up to 100 percent of the actual amount of production or physical losses to a maximum amount of $500,000. According to the USDA, emergency loan funds may be used to: restore or replace essential property, pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year, pay essential family living expenses, or reorganize the farming. Farmers in eligible counties have 8 months from the date of a Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers with further information.

Schumer and Gillibrand said the severe cold temperature and frost in May resulted in significant crop losses for several types of fruit, including grapes, apples, strawberries, peaches, pears, plums, blueberries, apricots, cherries, and caneberries across the state and flower and hay damage in certain areas. According to the National Weather Service, New York had multiple dates where the temperature dropped below freezing between May 14th and May 25th, but the time period that caused the most widespread damage happened overnight from May 17th to May 18th. These freezing temperatures caused severe frost damage to multiple crops across the majority of the state. However, Schumer said that grapes and apples were hit especially hard, with vineyards across New York reporting losses ranging from 5 to 100 percent. Several farmers in the Finger Lakes region said this year’s frost was ‘the worst they had ever seen,’ with almost every single vineyard in the region sustaining at least some damage, potentially decimating the year's vintage.

After the devastation in May, Schumer and Gillibrand immediately began sounding the alarm on the potential need for relief for Upstate growers as they began to tally the damage, writing the Secretary of Agriculture personally urging them to stand ready and begin working with growers. After the NYS FSA  Director officially requested a USDA Secretarial disaster declaration earlier this month, the senators wrote to USDA Secretary Vilsack to quickly approve the application. Schumer also personally called Secretary Vilsack to emphasize the importance of the relief to Upstate NY growers. USDA Secretarial disaster designations must be requested of the Secretary of Agriculture by a governor or the governor’s authorized representative, by an Indian Tribal Council leader or by an FSA State Executive Director (SED).

According to Empire State Development, New York State is the third-largest producer of grapes, grape juice and wine in the United States. In addition, the state is the second-largest producer of apples in the country. These crops make a significant contribution to the state's agricultural economy and support many local businesses and jobs, employing close to 100,000 New Yorkers and producing $11.5 billion worth of economic impact annually.