Damage may trigger crop aid

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

It has not been a kind spring for the apple and grape industry. Erratic weather — particularly an unseasonably warm March and some late April snowfall — has left area farmers with damaged crops and in some cases, in need of financial assistance.

“The cost of operation, even with a smaller crop, is the same as with a bigger crop,” said John Brahm, a partner at Randall-Standish Vineyards in Canandaigua. “Unless grape prices increase, which they probably won’t, it’s a negative financial situation.”

To combat the loss of crops, Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette and other Senate colleagues are seeking federal disaster assistance for those impacted by the weather changes.

“Orchards and vineyards need to be maintained,” Nozzolio said. “That costs money, money that won’t be coming to the farmers because of product loss ... Their source of revenue was obliterated by the weather.”

Nozzolio’s hope is that action will be made “within weeks.”

Brahm said the biggest problem for the grapes wasn’t the April frost but the 70-degree weather in March. It caused some variety of grapes to bud early. When the frost came a month later, it devastated the crop. Brahm estimated that 30 to 40 percent of their harvest of Niagara grapes was lost, while other early-budding grapes also suffered.

Hans Walter-Petersen, Yates County Cornell Cooperative Extension Viticulture Specialist said early varieties like Concord and Niagara suffered about 30 percent loss in Yates County, but that there was little damage to Rieslings and hybrids which come out later.

“Ontario County will have significant damage. We won’t know the extent in Yates County until we are through the bloom period,” said Walter-Petersen, who added than vines can compensate for this kind of early frost damage.

“Tree fruits have been hurt more than the grapes. Cherries, apricots, and peaches are hard hit this year,” he added.

The tree fruit industry was hit even harder in Wayne County. “I’d estimate my total crop potential is at 20 percent of a full crop for apples,” said Ned Morgan of Morgan Farms in Marion, Wayne County. Morgan Farms also grows cherries and peaches. He said they were “completely wiped out.”

Morgan added that he was encouraged by the push to help aid agriculture in New York.

“Certainly the tree fruit industry should be looked at for assistance,” he said.