Hawley, Cuomo say needed disaster relief coming for local farms

Staff Reports Posted 7 September 2016 at 8:30 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: A lone sunflower stands tall in a field of corn on Route 31 in Albion near the Long Bridge Road intersection.

Local counties, including Orleans, Genesee and Monroe, are among the 24 counties that have been designated natural disaster areas and are eligible for assistance through the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, said the designation should help farmers weather a tough growing season, when a drought stunted crops and reduced yields. State officials will be conducting on-site assessments of the damage to local farms and working with Cornell University experts to devise recovery solutions, Hawley said.

“Farmers are the backbone of New York’s already excellent, diversified and growing agriculture sector,” Hawley said. “As the former owner and operator of our family farm for many years, I can personally attest to the determination of our famers to battle ever-changing weather and devastating floods and drought in Western New York. It is important to protect the livelihood of our producers and assist them when unforeseen circumstances threaten their prosperity. I am pleased the federal government is offering our famers this much needed assistance.”

Disaster declaration is based on reporting of crop loss to the federal Farm Service Agency and an “Extreme Drought” designation by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The federal government declared 15 counties as primary natural disaster areas and an additional nine counties as contiguous disaster counties due to a recent drought. (Orleans is a contiguous disaster county.)

In addition, several other counties in the North Country, the Finger Lakes, Central New York, and the Southern Tier regions are also requesting primary disaster declarations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said.

The primary counties included under this designation are in Western New York, Finger Lakes, Central New York, and Southern Tier.

“Strong agriculture is critical to the vibrancy of Upstate New York and this year’s hot, dry summer have created significant challenges to this crucial industry,” Governor Cuomo said. “From Western New York to the North Country, New York’s growers and producers are major drivers of our economy and the benefits they provide to the community are immeasurable. In these difficult times, we must ensure that they have full access to all the resources necessary for making a full recovery.”

The Farm Service Agency office in Orleans County is located at 446 West Ave., Albion. The phone number is (585) 589-5320.

“Our hearts go out to the farmers and ranchers affected by the drought in New York,” said United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling New York producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”