ALBANY — Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced several new initiatives to strengthen New York’s Concord grape industry, including an investment of more than $1.3 million in the Vineyard Improvement Program to help growers renovate their vineyards, diversify operations and plant new grape varieties, increase production and enhance profitability. In addition, the state will provide funding to support research at Cornell University to develop new Concord grape products and identify market opportunities. These initiatives are a direct result of the Governor’s first-ever Concord grape summit held in April of this year.
“As home to the largest Concord grape industry in the eastern United States, the State of New York is making it a priority to support local growers and their businesses which in turn boosts regional economic growth,” Governor Cuomo said. “These new initiatives will strengthen the grape industry and create new jobs by utilizing one of New York’s greatest agricultural assets.”
“Concord grapes grown across the Lake Erie shoreline are an important part of the diverse agricultural landscape of New York State,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “With this vineyard improvement program and the state’s first Concord Grape Summit held earlier this year, New York is doing everything we can to support the grape industry and agricultural products statewide. This investment in new initiatives will help to increase production and develop new products to continue to create opportunities and strengthen the overall economy.”
Through the Vineyard Improvement Program, Concord growers in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Steuben, Schuyler, Thompkins, Chemung, Tioga, Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Niagara and Erie Counties are eligible to apply for up to $50,000 to enhance vineyard operations. The program is being administered by the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis at .
In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Markets received a nearly $145,000 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant that will be used for a joint research project with Cornell University to find new products and markets for New York’s Concord grape industry. The funding will be matched with support from Cornell and the New York Wine and Grape Foundation for a total investment of more than $450,000. The goal of the three-year project is to increase the profitability of Concord grape growers and processors through food science research and product development.
Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) will conduct research to develop new products using Concord grapes, perform marketing and supply chain analysis to find barriers to growth and identify emerging opportunities for growth, and conduct research on consumer trends as they relate to new Concord grape products and ingredients. The food science research will be funded by the appropriation in the 2018-19 State Budget for Concord grape research.
New York is the nation’s second largest producer of Concord grapes. The Lake Erie Grape Belt encompasses more than 800 vineyards and 22 wineries covering 32,000 acres of grape-friendly soil along the lake shoreline from Buffalo to Erie, Pennsylvania. Those farms produce more than 150,000 tons of Concord grapes, most of which are sold for juice but are also used for jellies, marmalades and wine. Approximately 2,000 jobs depend on the Concord grape industry, which creates $340 million in economic impact each year.
In recent years, New York’s Concord grape growers have experienced challenges due to a combination of changing consumer preferences for juice products and oversupply of product that has reduced grape prices. Juice and jelly production businesses are also being impacted, with many closing or reducing production as a result.
In response, the state held a Concord Grape Summit in April to begin laying out a roadmap for revitalization of the industry. Since then, the state has undertaken new efforts to connect growers to new markets, including:
- Hosting Grape Day at the Great New York State Fair to introduce consumers to Concord grape products and educate people about the history and importance of grapes to New York agriculture.
- Launching a $114,000 Market Development Grants Program to support new Concord marketing opportunities and institutional purchasing of grape juice. Grants were provided to American Farmland Trust, GrowNYC and NY Wine and Grape Foundation to promote the use of Concord grapes in schools, restaurants and the craft beverage industry.
- Increasing grape industry representation at domestic and international trade shows, including events in Chicago, Orlando and New York City.
- Planning a workshop on export opportunities and marketing assistance for the industry
- Holding special promotional events, like the Concord Crush Happy Hour, in coordination with Grow NYC in New York City, to provide sourcing information to restaurants and other buyers for Concord grapes and juices, and to present new Concord grape products to consumers in the marketplace.
- Releasing the first-ever seedless Concord grape, Everest Seedless, from Cornell CALS grape breeding program, which is supported by the state of New York.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Our Concord grape industry is ripe with potential for growth. We are committed to supporting our growers and our businesses creating Concord grape products through increased marketing efforts and promotion. These new initiatives will help us build on our accomplishments and bring a boost to the industry.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Patty Ritchie said, “As the nation’s second largest Concord grape growing state, we are already witnessing the impact our hardworking grape growers are having on New York State’s agriculture industry. Our state’s craft beverage sector is booming, and through these investments in research and marketing we can continue that momentum and in turn, further boost our economy and create jobs.”
Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee said, “This much needed support for New York’s Concord grape industry will be just the reinforcement needed for those grape farmers who are looking to improve quality, and are prepared to take on the challenge of producing, developing, and marketing new and innovative products.”
Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said, “New York is Concord grape country. Generations of Cornell expertise has helped grape growers in the state produce the highest quality Concords found anywhere in the world. This funding will enhance vineyard operations for growers across the region while unleashing our food scientists to innovate and develop new products for the marketplace. The continued partnership is a win for growers, for producers and for consumers everywhere.”
GrowNYC President and CEO Marcel Van Ooyen said, “GrowNYC’s Greenmarket program has, for years, created a marketplace in New York City for farmers to sell their products, thus enhancing farm viability. Our efforts to help with the promotion of Concord grapes is a great example of how, by working with our restaurant partners here in the City, we can support growers in need.”
NY Wine and Grape Foundation President Sam Filler said, “I applaud Governor Cuomo’s commitment to support the Concord Grape industry as he has done from the wine grape industry. Our Concord grape growers have formed the backbone of our industry for several generations. This is New York’s leading grape, and the NY Wine & Grape Foundation intends to make Concord synonymous with New York through new marketing initiatives.”
Erica Goodman, New York State Deputy Director for American Farmland Trust said, “We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Ball to help K-12 schools purchase more Concord grapes and juice. Enabling schools and other community institutions to buy food grown in New York is good for local farmers and the health of New Yorkers.”
–NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
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