CHATHAM — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer wrapped up another tour of New York's 62 counties Friday with a call for greater federal help for the state's craft beer industry.
During a stop at a brewery in the Columbia County community of Chatham, the Democratic Senate minority leader said he has asked U.S. agriculture officials to add New York to a list of states eligible for a crop insurance program for farmers who grow malt barley.
Because it requires specific environmental conditions to grow, malt barley can be a risky proposition to farmers in New York. Schumer said giving New York farmers greater crop insurance options will encourage more farmers to grow it.
Demand for locally grown malt barley is expected to increase as brewers look for local ingredients to use in their beer. The state is now home to 213 craft breweries.
The visit to Columbia County, east of Albany, makes this the 19th year Schumer has visited each of the state's counties. He vowed to continue the tradition even after his responsibilities in Washington increased when he was picked to lead the Senate's Democratic minority.
"It helps me do my job," he said of the visits. "Being out in a large, diverse state like New York... helps me understand what's going on."