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New York state is investing $1.3 million in a new Concord Vineyard Improvement Program at Cornell to help Concord grape growers renovate vineyards, plant new vines or diversify vineyard operations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Dec. 7. 

In addition, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets will team with Cornell to promote new products and analyze new marketing opportunities for New York’s Concord grape industry, thanks in part to a nearly $145,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP). The USDA funding will be matched by additional state funding provided to Cornell’s Department of Food Science for new concord grape product development, along with New York Wine and Grape Foundation funds for a total close to $450,000 devoted to product development. 

Overall, the initiatives will help bolster New York’s Concord grape industry, which generates $340 million annually.

“New York is home to the largest Concord grape industry in the eastern United States,” Cuomo said. “We put a major effort into supporting wine grapes and that industry is flourishing. New York wines are known all over the world. We’re now making the same effort now with Concord grapes, and I am convinced we will be successful.”

Said Tim Weigle, project leader for the Concord Vineyard Improvement Program: “The Concord industry is the economic backbone of towns and villages in the Lake Erie region.”

Recently the industry has taken a hit due to a nationwide drop in juice consumption combined with oversupply, which has suppressed grape prices. Juice and jelly production businesses have also been affected, and many state juice processors have closed. “Concord growers have found themselves without a processor to deliver their grapes to, leading to productive agricultural acreage laying idle,” Weigle said.

To address these issues, the Concord Vineyard Improvement Program was planned at the New York State Concord Grape Summit in April and will provide grants up to $50,000 to eligible applicants to enhance vineyard operations. Administered by the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program extension team, grants will be available on a rolling basis to Concord growers in Alleghany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Erie, Niagara, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins counties.

The program will assist Lake Erie region Concord grape growers in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties to replant grape varieties or other crops that will maintain, improve or expand production. It will also provide Concord grape growers production and marketing resources needed to successfully transition to new grape varieties or other emerging agricultural products.

Researchers in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Cornell Cooperative Extension will undertake product development, supply chain analysis, consumer and marketing research, and outreach to share research results with the industry.

“For generations, Cornell experts have helped grape growers in the state produce the highest quality Concords found anywhere in the world,” said Kathryn J. Boor ’80, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “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.”

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