This winter's plethora of deep freezes have not been good to New York's grape growers and vineyards.
In a statement released Friday, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said the extended periods where temperatures fell from 7 to 18 degrees below zero have significantly damaged the Finger Lakes regions' crops — causing some vineyards to lose up to 90 percent of their plants' buds.
To aid impacted growers, Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has asked the United States Department of Agriculture to issue an agriculture disaster designation.
By issuing the declaration for Cayuga, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Oswego and Yates counties, the senator said grape growers and vineyards would be able to access a variety of financial and technical assistance from the federal government geared at helping them recover.
In her statement, Gillibrand cited the importance of New York's growing wine and grape industry to the state's economy — warning that when farmers struggle, "our entire economy struggles."
"Losing out on these crops will set them behind all season, and hurt local businesses and jobs at a time we just can't afford anymore setbacks," Gillibrand said. "We need these federal resources on the ground without delay so we can help our farms recover and grow our economy."
Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on March 6 requesting the designation.