04.30.15

SCHUMER:NEW YORK STATE’S $65 MILLION POTATO INDUSTRY AT SEVERE RISK FROM INVASIVE SPECIES; SENATOR LAUNCHES PUSH TO REPLACE CORNELL UNIVERSITY’S OUTDATED NEMATODE LAB WITH NEW STATE-OF-THE-ART FACILITY AT THE UNIVERSITY

Golden Nematode And Pale Cyst Nematode Invasive Species Are Threatening The Long-Term Viability of New York State’s $65 Million Potato Industry – Cornell’s Outdated 78-Year-Old Nematode Lab in Ithaca Conducts Pest Prevention Research, But Needs Modernization 

Without Upgrades to Lab to Better Guard Against Invasive Species, Potato Farmers Could See Their Crops Destroyed in the Near Future – Schumer Calls on USDA to Prioritize the Replacement of This Lab, Which is Critical to Farmers & Industry 

Schumer: Failing To Modernize and Replace Cornell Lab Puts Entire NY Potato Industry & Nation’s Crop Supply On The Chopping Block

 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prioritize the replacement and modernization of the Federal Nematode Quarantine Facility at Cornell University in the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Capitol Investment Strategy for Fiscal Year 2016. In his letter to Secretary Tom Vilsack, Schumer that it is critical that this severely dilapidated facility be replaced as soon as possible; otherwise, ARS will not be able to adequately respond to the potential devastation that the Golden Nematode and Pale Cyst Nematode will cause to the potato industry.  The facility is currently past its functional lifespan, thus limiting the ability of the ARS to address the growing devastation caused by the golden nematode and pale cyst nematode to the New York State – and American – potato industry. Schumer explained that the Federal Nematode Quarantine Facility, located at Cornell University in Ithaca, provides invaluable research to farmers regarding the growing threat of nematodes, how to guard against this invasive species, and ways to ensure the long-term viability of the potato industry. Schumer said this laboratory dates back to the 1930s and must be modernized – at Cornell – in order to meet the challenges posed by these new and potentially devastating threats by nematodes.

“The Federal Nematode Quarantine Facility at Cornell is the main line of defense between New York potato farmers and the potentially catastrophic spread of nematodes, but it is outdated and must be modernized ASAP. That’s why I have been urgently calling on the USDA and Secretary Vilsack to make replacing and modernizing the lab at Cornell a top priority for the upcoming fiscal year,” said Schumer. “The potato industry is a vital part of both the New York economy and the nation’s food supply. Without a new lab here at Cornell doing the cutting-edge research we need, the nematode threat could explode and destroy this critical economic sector. The USDA should replace this lab with a  new one here at Cornell, where we have some many of the best and brightest minds in this field, as soon as possible in order to protect New York farmers before nematodes spread beyond our borders.”

Schumer said the potato industry is a crucial sector of the New York economy, with over 20,000 acres of cropland and production valued at more than $65 million across 1,207 farms in the state. Schumer explained that nematodes pose a growing threat to the potato industry and that if the golden nematode becomes established nationwide, it could cripple the entire potato industry. Therefore, Schumer said it is vital the New York and national economy that the ARS, in FY 2016, prioritize replacing the Federal Nematode Quarantine Facility at Cornell to ensure it can achieve its mission and meet its responsibilities for conducting scientific research on behalf of farmers and consumers.

Schumer explained that the Federal Nematode Quarantine Facility helps farmers prepare for new risks to their crops while also helping to increase the production of high quality potatoes on a yearly basis. Schumer said it is imperative that ARS modernize its facilities to meet the challenges posed by these new and potentially devastating threats to crops before it is too late. Therefore, Schumer urged the USDA to prioritize the Federal Nematode Quarantine Facility in Ithaca as it revises its Capitol Investment Strategy for the year 2016.

Schumer also noted the number of potato farms across New York State, and said that these farms could be at risk if the nematode population is allowed to explode and devastate the industry in Upstate New York.

·         In the Capital Region there are 154 potato farms.

·         In Central New York there are 147 potato farms.

·         In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region there are 210 potato farms.

·         In Western New York there are 104 potato farms.

·         In the Southern Tier there are 223 potato farms.

·         In the Hudson Valley there are 121 potato farms.

·         In North Country there are 168 potato farms.

·         In Long Island there are 76 potato farms.

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack appears below:

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

We write to urge the United States Department of Agriculture to give the highest priority to replacing the Federal Nematode Quarantine Facility in Ithaca, NY in the Agricultural Research Service’s Capital Investment Strategy for FY 2016. It is critical that this severely dilapidated facility be replaced as soon as possible; otherwise, ARS will not be able to adequately respond to the potential devastation that the Golden Nematode and Pale Cyst Nematode will cause to the national potato industry.  

The Federal Nematode Quarantine Facility, co-located at Cornell University, has been an important tool in preventing the spread of Golden Nematodes beyond New York for more than 60 years. Breeding, testing, and certification of nematode-resistant seed potatoes have kept growers, who would otherwise face quarantine, in business for generations. The work at this unique facility has allowed the New York potato industry to flourish, while preventing the spread of a devastating pest beyond a small area. Indeed, the potato industry is an important part of the New York economy, with 1,207 farms producing more than $65 million of potatoes on 20,000 acres of cropland. The discovery of Pale Cyst Nematodes in Idaho only increases the urgency of having a dedicated facility that can handle nematodes safely and effectively.  Idaho is the top potato producing state, accounting for approximately a third of the U.S. crop, and the benefits of the research conducted at Cornell reach well beyond New York. 

We know that ARS is slowly working its way through a backlog of maintenance and upgrades necessary to modernize its facilities to meet the challenges posed by new and potentially devastating threats. As part of that process, we understand that ARS is currently reviewing its research operations that are conducted in university cooperator space, to determine which would be better served in modern laboratory space with more advanced capabilities dedicated solely to the goals and mission of ARS. Based on the critical importance of the work at the Federal Nematode Quarantine Facility at Cornell 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. we look forward to working with you as you move ahead.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

Mike Crapo

United States Senator

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