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Lt. Governor Presents "Winery of Year" Award, Addresses Drought Impact

Written By: Isabel Garcia
Wine Drought Impact

September 1, 2016

WATKINS GLEN (WENY) -- New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul personally visited Keuka Springs Vineyard in Penn Yan Thursday afternoon to present the owners with the "2016 Winery of the Year" award, and celebrate the growing industry in the Finger Lakes region.

     For some wineries, however, this year's summer drought will have a large impact on next year's product. Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared 24 counties throughout the state as federal disaster areas in response to the drought. This now allows farmers and owners to the opportunity for farmers to apply for emergency funds in anticipation of a lower harvest.

     "The concern is that some of the crops here, some of the grapes, could be down about 40% in some of these areas. That's compared to last year, which was not a great year. So we're very much monitoring this together and trying to provide as much assistance as we can," the Lieutenant Governor explains.

     "Our farmers are the backbone of these communities and we need to make sure we're protecting them and helping them along this process because the drought situation is severe and we need to make sure we're providing assistance where the help is needed," says Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, who also attended the award presentation.

     Len and Judy Wilterberg are the owners of Keuka Spring Vineyards. They say harvesting is right around the corner and they are expecting a drastically reduced crop.

     "The berries are small. Some of the germination when they were blossoming wasn't ideal, so the crop is going to be down, from a few of the growers we've gotten reports from, by as much as 40%," Len Wilterberg says.

     Across the way by Seneca Lake, Lakewood Vineyards Inc. is also seeing a smaller crop. Grape canes are reportedly about 2 to 2.5 feet long, whereas farmers would really like to see them grow to about 3 to 3.5 feet.

     "Because these canes haven't grown as far as they usually would, it's going to make it tougher for us to prune them, to get the amount of buds we'd like to put on them, and the development of that bud is going to be affected a little bit too. So the drought won't only just affect this year, we'll see some of the repercussions next year," says David Stamp, Vineyard Manager at Lakewood Vineyards.

     The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, along with its Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Farm Bureau, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Cornell Eden program, recommend that farmers affected by the drought should continue to document their conditions (pictures and video), and any losses. Farmers can also file a CCC- 576 (Notice of Loss) with their local USDA Farm Service Agency.

     The Farm Service Agency considers each emergency loan application based on the extent of production losses on the farm. Local agency contact information can be found here: http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=ny&agency=fsa

     To monitor the current drought situation in the Northeast region, click here: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/RegionalDroughtMonitor.aspx?northeast

     The Governor's original announcement, including a list of qualified counties, can be found here: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-disaster-declaration-24-counties-across-new-york-state-assist-farmers#