Schumer visits Yates; calls on USDA to restore wine industry studies

Staff reports
The Chronicle-Express
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer revealed during a visit to Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard near Himrod that decisions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to stop collecting data on grape production vineyards in New York put the Finger Lakes region, the state’s grape and wine industries, and the local economy at risk.

HIMROD – 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 near Himrod that decisions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to stop collecting data on grape production vineyards in New York have put the Finger Lakes region, the state’s grape and wine industries, and the local economy at risk. 

After his speech, Schumer enjoyed a glass of wine with Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard co-owners Oskar Bynke and Winemaker Fred Merwarth.

Schumer said that the 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 five-year comprehensive Vineyard and Orchard Acreage Survey.

Schumer enjoyed the spread of Lively Run cheeses and shared a laugh with Yates County Treasurer-Administrator Nonie Flynn.

“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 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.

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.