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Damaged Crop

Help may be available to growers who suffered big losses

June 10, 2012
By MIKE ZUMMO , The Leader Herald

Apple growers remember far too well when the area got hit with summerlike weather in March, a time when the last gasps of winter usually reluctantly give way to spring.

Then, nighttime temperatures plunged and heat gave way to frost, causing damage to crops throughout the area.

Todd Rogers, owner of Rogers Family Orchard in the town of Johnstown, said he lost about 40 percent of his apple crop.

Article Photos

Todd Rogers, owner of Rogers Family Orchard in Johnstown, stands on a ladder and inspects an apple tree for damage Thursday at the orchard.

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

"It's hard to say exactly how much was lost," Rogers said. "We'll certainly have enough apples for pick-your-own."

The damage to the crop has been noticed in Albany.

Lawmakers are proposing the Family Farmers and Apple Growers Relief Act. They say apple growers have lost as much as 75 percent of this year's crop, a major commodity in New York.

Assemblymen Jim Tedisco, George Amedore and Pete Lopez joined in the measure with Sens. Hugh Farley and Patty Ritchie, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

According to a news release from Farley, R-Niskayuna, preliminary estimates show the state has experience one of the worst multi-crop losses ever witnessed.

"Farmers are such hard-working people, but their efforts can be undermined by the unpredictable weather," Farley said in the release. "Farmers are major contributors to our economy, and they help preserve the land and open space. New York state needs to work with our farmers and assist them during difficult times."

New York is the second-largest apple-producing state in the nation and the state's 694 family apple farms employ 10,000 people and support another 7,500 jobs indirectly that depend on a robust apple crop, according to the New York Apple Association. The apple industry's economic impact on the state's economy is valued at $233 million.

The proposed legislation would establish a specialized tax credit for the 2012 tax year that would allow an affected farmers to claim 35 percent of their crop losses.

"New York state agriculture is one of the more significant engines driving our economy," Amedore, R-Rotterdam, said in the release. "With so many livelihoods dependent on these goods, particular the fruit crop, we cannot allow one catastrophic year to decimate the entire industry. Making these resources available to growers will be a tremendous aid during this difficult time and ensure the longevity of New York's fruit producers."

Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday declared 28 New York Counties, including Fulton and Montgomery, disaster areas. The declaration will make it easier for farmers to access federal funds, including low-interest emergency loans from the USDA's Farm Service Agency.

Kenneth Coyne, who operate's Bellinger's Orchards in Fultonville with his wife, Linda, and father-in-law, Tom Bellinger, said these programs can help farmers recoup some of what is lost.

Bellinger's lost a portion of its crop due to the weather, but Coyne said how much is undetermined.

"Even after experiencing the damage, the work must continue to ensure the trees are in good shape for years to come," he said. "What is done now will ensure proper fruit set for the next year. Farming is and will always be a gamble; some years things pay off and other years you experience a setback."

Rogers said his loss wasn't as bad as he originally thought. Plus, there have been other difficulties as well, due to increased rainfall.

"It's been a tough season for apple scab because it's been raining so much," Rogers said.

Ed Pavlus, owner of Pavlus Orchard in Palatine, said his crop is light this year after taking damage when some of his trees bloomed in April, then three out of four days of frost wiped out some of the buds.

"I got through the March weather OK, but they bloomed way too early," Pavlus said.

Rogers said he might have to buy some additional apples for the bins and farm stands, but with the harvest still two months away, time will tell.

"It's a long way from when the apples are in the bins," he said. "It's a lot better than what I had anticipated."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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