Saturday, September 3, 2011

Irene Aftermath: Vilsack Tours New York Farms

140,000 acres of farmland destroyed...
President Obama heads for Paterson, New Jersey on Sunday morning to tour sites impacted by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene, his first visit to an area outside of Washington that was battered by the massive weather system that hit the East Coast on Aug. 26-28. Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited upstate New York at the request of Governor Andrew Cuomo to survey damage and ongoing recovery efforts. Vilsack took an aerial tour, and met with farmers and small business owners in Middleburgh, accompanied by Cuomo and Senator Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Cuomo said 140,000 acres of New York farmland have been destroyed, with agricultural losses expected to exceed $45 million. (Above: Cuomo speaks during a stop at Van Aller Farm, in Middleburgh; Vilsack is on the right in yellow, and Gillibrand on the left)

“New York’s agricultural industry is an important part of our state economy and the storm wreaked havoc on farms that many New Yorkers depend on for their livelihood," Cuomo said.

New York has a diverse agriculture economy; among other outputs, it is the second largest apple growing state in the US, the third largest for wine and grape juice, and the fifth largest for "fresh market vegetables." Dairy farming is also an important part of the state's Ag economy. Many farms are still inaccessible by road, according to Cuomo, and power is still out at locations around the state. He announced a $15 million Agriculture and Community Recovery Fund to help farmers rebuild.

"This fund will help New York’s farming community rebuild and recover,” Cuomo said.

Federal resources have also been made available; President Obama has designated twenty New York counties as disaster areas.

The New York funding will come from the Upstate Agricultural Economic Development Capital Fund and the Department of Homes and and Community Renewal’s Community Development Office, according to Cuomo. (Above: Flood damage at Van Aller Farm)

President signs disaster declaration for New York...
President Obama signed a disaster declaration for New York on Aug. 31, which made federal funds available to affected individuals in the counties of Albany, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Greene, Schenectady, Schoharie, and Ulster. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses. It has now been expanded to include twenty counties, with Otsego being the most recent addition.

Congressman Paul Tonko of New York and state Agriculture Commissioner Darrel Aubertine also accompanied Vilsack today on the tour.

According to FEMA, federal funding also is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by Hurricane Irene in the counties of Albany, Bronx, Clinton, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Greene, Montgomery, Nassau, New York, Queens, Rensselaer, Richmond, Rockland, Schoharie, Suffolk, Ulster, Warren, and Westchester.

*Photos via Office of Gov. Cuomo

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