The Federal Grape Genetic Research Lab in Geneva Provides Research For Grape Farmers On How To Enhance Their Products – Lab Is Outdated And In Need Of Significant Maintenance And Upgrades To Continue Providing Essential Research 

Without Upgrades to Facilities, Grape Growers Will Be Without The State-of-the-Art Resource Needed To Succeed In A Competitive Industry; Schumer Calls On USDA To Prioritize Lab Replacement In FY2016 Capital Investment Plan 

Schumer: Failure To Modernize And Replace Lab Could Squish Entire NY Grape Industry


U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prioritize the replacement and modernization of the Federal Grape Genetic Research Service Lab in Geneva, NY in the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Capital Investment Strategy for FY 2016. In his letter to Secretary Tom Vilsack, Schumer urged that the outdated facility be replaced as soon as possible. The Federal Grape Genetic Research Service Lab provides critical information to New York grape growers through a variety of different research programs and studies, including improved resistance to crop-killing disease. New York State has over 1,600 family vineyards, and almost 40,000 acres of cropland, valued at over $52 million, which produces $4.8 billion in annual economic benefits for the state. Schumer said that a failure to replace and modernize the facility could leave New York grape growers without the critical research they need to succeed in a competitive industry.

“The Federal Grape Genetic Research Services Lab in Geneva provides critical research to help New York grape growers enhance their crops, but it is old and outdated and must be replaced immediately. That’s why I have called on the USDA to prioritize replacing the Geneva facility as part of their Capital Investment Strategy for the upcoming fiscal year,” said Schumer. “Failure to make this important investment would put the entire New York grape industry at undue risk. The grape industry provides $4.8 billion in economic benefits for New York and supports thousands of jobs, not to mention the livelihood of many family-owned farms and vineyards. Without a new facility, many of those jobs could be put at risk. The USDA should replace this lab, which has produced some of the finest minds in this field, to continue the expansion of this thriving industry.”

Schumer said the grape industry is a crucial sector of the New York economy, with nearly 40,000 acres of cropland and production across 1,392 vineyards in the state. Schumer explained the Federal Grape Genetic Research Service Unit conducts research and studies on grape production, which is in turn provided to the growers to enhance and increase their production. Schumer said the facility is outdated and cannot continue to carry out its mission without significant maintenance and upgrades. Therefore, Schumer urged Secretary Vilsack to prioritize the lab’s replacement request as the ARS plans how to replace outdated USDA facilities.

Given the poor condition of the Grape Genetic Research Service Lab, Schumer urged Secretary Vilsack to put the labs on the list of USDA facilities eligible for ARS funding. In addition, Schumer is pushing for increased funding for USDA to replace these labs in the Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations bill.

Schumer also noted the number of grape growers across New York State, and said the sustainability of these vineyards could be at risk if the facility is not replaced and becomes inoperable.

·         In the Capital Region there are 57 growers.

·         In Central New York there are 57 growers.

·         In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region there are 327 growers.

·         In Western New York there are 578 growers.

·         In the Southern Tier there are 155 growers.

·         In the Hudson Valley there are 84 growers.

·         In North Country there are 63 growers.

“We greatly appreciate Senator Schumer’s proactive support of this vital facility, the latest example of his commitment to the New York grape and wine industry.  Our industry has made enormous strides in terms of the number of wineries, quality of wines, and international reputation, and research has been a key part of that success.  Researchers need modern, world-class facilities to do their job most effectively, and this initiative could provide that,” said Jim Trezise, President of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to Secretary Vilsack is available below:

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

I write to urge the United States Department of Agriculture to give the highest priority to replacing the Federal Grape Genetic Research Unit (“GGRU”) laboratory facilities in Geneva, NY as part of the Agricultural Research Service’s Capital Investment Strategy for FY 2016.  The maintenance and upgrades on this particular lab are critical in order for the continued health and robust growth of the grape industry in America.

As you know, the GGRU is one of the ARS’s most productive, collaborative, and innovative research programs.  Scientists in the Unit are working with colleagues at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station and Cornell Cooperative Extension to solve the problems in grape breeding and production that have led to exponential growth in the wine and grape industry in New York State and across the country. With over 1,600 family vineyards and almost 40,000 acres of cropland, the New York grape crop alone is valued at over $52 million and generates $4.8 billion in economic benefits annually for New York State. 

Work at the GGRU has improved grape quality, productivity, weather tolerance, disease resistance, and variety, all to the benefit of grape growers, wine makers, and the industry. Despite managing a world-class research portfolio, the GGRU’s laboratory facilities are extremely outdated and in very poor condition.  Indeed, ARS recognized the significance of the work at Geneva when it designed and approved the plans for a state-of-the-art replacement facility nearly a decade ago.

I know that ARS is working its way through a backlog of maintenance and upgrades necessary to modernize its facilities. I understand that ARS is currently in the process of reviewing its research operations — like the GGRU —  that are conducted in university cooperator space, in an effort to determine which facilities would be better served in modern laboratory space with more advanced capabilities dedicated solely to the goals and mission of ARS. In light of the critical importance of the work of the GGRU and the extremely poor condition of the facility, we urge you to make its replacement your highest priority.

Thank you for your attention to this very important matter. I look forward to working with you as you move ahead.      


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator


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