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Upstate NY Wine Industry Bottles $6.65 Billion In Revenue Per Year – With Large Portion Coming From Finger Lakes American Viticultural Area (AVA) As State’s Largest Wine-Producing Region – But Fed Decisions To Halt Important Data Collections Imperils Industry 

USDA Discontinued The Vineyard And Orchard Acreage Survey of NY in 2011, And Ceased Annual Grape Production Statistics Report For NY in 2018; Leaves NY Wine Industry ‘Flying Blind’ While California And Washington’s Continue Data Collection 

Schumer To Feds: Grapes & Vineyards Are Foundation of Upstate NY’s World-Class Wine Industry, And Local Jobs

Seeking to put a cork in problems facing New York’s wine industry, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer revealed during a visit to Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard in Dundee, New York, that decisions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to stop collecting data on grape production vineyards in New York puts the Rochester-Finger Lakes region, the state’s grape and wine industries, and local economy, at risk. Schumer said that the Rochester-Finger Lakes is currently a major producer of wine in the U.S., but these decisions by the feds to halt data collection could derail what keeps New York’s industry competitive with California, Washington State, and the world. The senator called on USDA to first, re-include New York in USDA’s annual grape production statistics report, and second, resume the 5-year comprehensive Vineyard and Orchard Acreage Survey.

“New York’s world-class wine industry deserves a level playing field, and the exclusion of the state’s grape crop from major data collection reports compiled by USDA put New York’s grape and wine industries at a distinct disadvantage. They should not be ‘flying blind’ when faced with competition from other states and existential factors like climate change and vineyard-killing invasive species. This data is vital for growers to determine everything from which grapes to grow and where to forecasting sales, formulating marketing and identifying new growth trends to leverage,” said Senator Schumer. “Especially with restaurants, bars, and tasting rooms reopening and life returning to normal, wine sales are expected to rise again, closer to their pre-pandemic levels. This bodes well for New York’s robust wine industry which accounts for thousands of jobs and bottles billions in revenue, especially in the Finger Lakes which is New York’s largest wine-producing region. However, with invasive species like the spotted lanternfly threatening our crop, USDA must restart data collection on grape production vineyards in the state ASAP, or risk the raisin-ing of the Rochester-Finger Lakes region, New York’s grape and wine industries, and the local economy.”

New York’s wine and grape industry is responsible for nearly 72,000 jobs across New York, generating $2.79 billion in wages and $6.65 billion in economic revenue. Additionally, the tourism surrounding vineyards attracted 4.71 million tourists per year before the pandemic, yielding $1.8 billion in tourism revenue. Schumer argued that given the significant economic impact of the industry on the region and on the nation – New York is the nation’s 3rd largest wine producer – the state’s grape production data should and must be collected and included in USDA’s annual grape production statistics report.

Additionally, Schumer noted that since USDA discontinued its five-year “Vineyard and Orchard Acreage Survey” of New York in 2011, the number of licensed wineries has increased by 65%, grape production has decreased, and two new American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) have been added in the state, indicating that New York’s latest data on the grape and wine industry is extremely out-of-date. The senator said the lack of current information is affecting everyone tied to the industry, including but not limited to, researchers, investors, farm equipment and supply chain producers, industry associations, and more. Schumer said at best the dearth of information has simply hampered the industry’s growth in New York, and worst, it has set up the industry for catastrophic decimation of its vineyards by emerging threats like the invasive Spotted Lanternfly, which has already been detected in several Finger Lakes counties.

Sam Filler, Executive Director New York Wine & Grape Foundation said, “We applaud Senator Schumer for bringing attention to the need for a regular vineyard survey in New York.  Accurate vineyard data supports NYWGF’s effort to market the grape and wine industry effectively and facilitates how our board prioritizes research investments.  The vineyard data is essential for the industry’s growth and long-term competitiveness.”

Schumer also explained that since USDA already produces 5-year and annual data collection and reporting for New York crops with comparable or lower acreage and value than New York’s grapes, including snap beans, sweet corn, potatoes, and tart cherries, omitting vital data collection for New York’s grapes, which are now the state’s second largest fruit and vegetable crop by acreage and value, is unreasonable.

Schumer’s letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack appears below:

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) continues to produce vital grape growing statistical data needed by grape, wine and juice producers in several states, USDA has ceased collecting and producing this data on New York’s grape, wine, and juice production severely hampering and disadvantaging New York’s wine and grape industry. Specifically USDA’s NASS discontinued its five-year detailed and comprehensive “Vineyard and Orchard Acreage Survey” of New York in 2011 and ceased its annual grape production statistics report for New York in 2018. With New York now cut off from needed USDA data resources, the industry is essentially ‘flying blind’ at a time when New York’s wine industry is quickly expanding and needing data to defend against new threats from climate change and vineyard decimating invasive insects like the Spotted Lanternfly. I therefore urge USDA to now resume including New York in the USDA NASS’s annual grape production statistics report and resume the comprehensive five-year Vineyard and Orchard Acreage Survey. 

Since USDA produced its last five-year report in 2011, the number of New York licensed wineries has increased 65% from 285 to 471, while juice grape production has decreased and two new American Viticultural Areas (AVA) were added in New York, all underscoring how the currently available data no longer accurately reflects New York’s current industry conditions. Simply put, the New York grape and wine industry’s continued growth and security requires annual and five-year USDA surveys to obtain the detailed statistics and information necessary to answer even the most basic questions as recently cited by Cornell such as: “How big was the 2020 grape crop in New York? How much did the spring frost lower yields in 2020 in the Finger Lakes? How many acres of Concord or Riesling are in production? How has this changed over the past five years?”  

Data is now lacking on everything from the amount of new bearing acreage, non-bearing acreage, and types of grape varieties grown to tonnage, average price, and data by growing region. Knowing this information is essential for the entire New York grape and wine ecosystem. Producers need this information to make investment decisions such as whether to acquire more vineyards, and decide which varieties to plant or remove and from which acres. Farm equipment and supply chain producers rely on it to forecast sales or identify sites for processing plants. Industry associations like the New York Wine & Grape Foundation require it to formulate marketing and sales, or export activities, monitor and capture production trends, research priorities to foster industry growth, and secure governmental assistance to identify and eliminate new threats to production. For example, New York’s world-renown Finger Lakes Wine region is bracing to prevent a catastrophic decimation of its vineyards by the invasive Spotted Lanternfly which was first detected in Pennsylvania and has destroyed grape crops across Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the mid-Atlantic. If left unchecked, the Spotted Lanternfly, which has now been detected in several Finger Lakes region counties, can potentially wreak havoc on New York’s grape regions. 

Lastly, while USDA continues to collect and produce this grape data on California and Washington State for the benefit of those regions, New York is disadvantaged and needs parity to remain competitive with other US grape growing regions. After all, New York’s grape industry is nationally significant. New York’s wine and grape industry directly creates 71,950 jobs, generating $2.79 billion in wages and $6.65 billion in direct economic impact that attracts 4.71 million tourist visits who yield $1.8 billion in tourism expenditures. By only surveying California and Washington, there is no data coverage of grape production in any eastern state. Excluding New York State also results in about half of the nation’s Concord and Niagara juice grape production not represented in national statistics.

Again, I urge USDA to resume this vital 5-year and annual data collection and reporting. I appreciate that USDA now produces this data on other New York crops with comparable or lower acreage and value than New York’s grapes such as snap beans (31,000 acres $38 million), sweet corn (28,000 acres $40 million), potatoes (14,000 acres, $47 million) and tart cherries (1,600 acres, $0.7 million). But USDA must now reverse its glaring omission and also include grapes which are New York’s second largest fruit and vegetable crop by acreage with a 2017 value of $69 million as then determined by USDA which was regrettably the last year USDA produced this type of data.

I appreciate your consideration and assistance to rectify this matter.