Washington, DC—Today Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) announced that the House has voted on the Fiscal Year 2007 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which contains a recommendation that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) fund the 21st Century Fredonia Vineyard Lab in Westfield.
Funding will be used for site preparation work and acquisition of furniture, fixtures and equipment for a new state-of-the-art research laboratory used by Cornell University, Penn State University and Cooperative Extension to maintain and enhance the grape production and processing industry in the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes regions of the nation. The project location is situated within the USDA-designated Chadwick Bay Champion Community region, and the project will support overall community development and provide an essential service to the area’s rural residents.
“The grape industry, which is so crucial to Western New Yorkers, will get a huge boost from the Department of Agriculture with federal funding, making our region’s growing and production even better,” said Congressman Higgins. “The development of a 21st century state-of-the-art Vineyard Lab is critical to our region’s economic development potential and to the U.S. grape industry’s viability, and I look forward to seeing the completion of the new lab and all that it means for our local growers.”
This funding recommendation comes a week after Senator Clinton and Congressman Higgins led a bipartisan effort to call on the Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns to provide disaster assistance to grape producers affected by an unseasonable devastating spring freeze. Higgins and Clinton want the Secretary to immediately authorize disaster assistance to ensure that grape producers can recover and can continue to contribute to the overall economic health of the state’s agriculture industry. “While the weather has wreaked havoc on our grapes this season, this recommendation for funding from the USDA is the step in the right direction to help our growers and producers recover,” said Congressman Higgins.
Grape production, research and outreach has been provided to the region and its 30,000 acres by Cornell and Penn State for nearly 100 years. In 1993, Cornell and Penn State joined together to create a single program to support grape production and processing with laboratories located in North East, PA and Fredonia, NY. The Cornell facility at Fredonia is a converted nursery barn acquired in the 1960s. An industry advisory group considered all the needs of the laboratory and recommended relocation of the current vineyard experimentation to a nearby site less impacted by commercial real estate development and the construction of a new research facility. The industry group secured a specialty crops grant from the State of New York to conduct a detailed needs assessment and to complete the architectural programming phase of the project.
The region, which includes four counties in New York State (Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara, and Cattaraugus) and one county in Pennsylvania (Erie), is home to the largest contiguous acreage of Concord grapes in the world. It also contains the headquarters of the largest Concord and Niagara based grape cooperative, and the largest private label juice company in the United States, Welch’s. The region’s grape processors and wineries include Canandaigua Wine (Constellation Brands), Cliffstar Corporation, Mogen David Wine, Meiers Wine, and the National Grape Cooperative. The region produces annually 160,000 tons of grapes and generates over $41 million in income to its grape producers. The processors and wineries contribute between $80,000 and $150,000 annually to support the Cornell and Penn State viticulture research and extension education programs. The Vineyard Lab is viewed by these companies as central to their success in the future in a highly competitive global economy.