PORTLAND – The cold weather this winter has comprised the local grape industry in Chautauqua County for this year which, could cause financial hardship for area growers. As a result, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer is calling on the U. S. Department of Agriculture to be prepared to offer relief.
On Monday, Schumer visited Chautauqua County’s grape belt to bring attention to what many predict will be an extremely poor growing season because of this winter’s frigid temperatures. Schumer said he will be urging the USDA to be prepared to provide quick relief to local vineyards that have suffered vine damage due to the cold weather. If the USDA gets on board, the funding would come from the Tree Assistance Program in the recently approved U.S. Farm Bill, which provides reimbursements to growers who suffer extensive trunk damage.
This has been the worst winter since 2004 for growers in Chautauqua County, who are already assessing the damage caused by the cold temperatures earlier this month and in January.
Already, as a result of the cold snap, scientists at Cornell are finding damaged buds in test studies, suggesting that over 50 percent of buds could be damaged this winter, which suggests that vine damage is also highly likely.
The grape business in Chautauqua County is a multi-million dollar industry, with local grapes being used to make everything from jellies and grape juice to wines that are exported across the country.