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Schumer calling for federal disaster assistance for local vineyards

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Schumer calling for federal disaster assistance for local vineyards
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Vineyards are calling this season the worst winter in a decade. Record low temperatures across the region have taken a toll on crops. Time Warner Cable News Reporter Crystal Cranmore tells us what legislation is being pushed to keep grape growers in business.

STEUBEN COUNTY, N.Y. -- Many vineyards in the Finger Lakes are nervous.

We're seeing on vinifera which would be Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet franc, up 30 to 50 percent damage on those varieties which would equate to a significant reduction in our grapes, yield,” said Matthew Doyle of Doyle Vineyard Management.

With temperatures dropping below zero several times this season, growers like Matt Doyle say this is the worst winter they've seen since in a decade.

Cornell University scientists say Western New York and the Finger Lakes lost about $42 million in wine production in 2004.

This year those experts say 50 percent of the buds could be damaged.

“Different varieties have different temperatures at which those buds will die. And we've gotten low enough for long enough around the Finger Lakes and Western New York, and other parts of the country actually, where we are starting to see some of those buds dying,” said Cornell Viticulture Specialist Hans Walter Peterson.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer was in Hammondsport, calling for quick action.

“I am here today to announce a campaign to get the US Department of Agriculture ready to go so we can get help,” Schumer said.

Since growers will not be able to determine the full extent of the damage until late spring, the senator wants the department to start preparing now, so funds are quickly disbursed.

Growers with trunk and vine damage will be eligible for a 65 percent reimbursement through the Tree Assistance Program.

“We do have trunk injury, we're talking several years before we are back up in production and for us to have money available to tear out and replant that variety, it's going to help significantly,” said Daren Simmons, owner of Simmons Vineyards.

The senator also wants the Department of Agriculture to plan to approve a crop disaster declaration so emergency loans can be available.

Schumer said a quick turnaround is important to ensure 2014 vintage wines hit the shelves.

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