Albany, NY, April 12, 2018 – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the first-ever New York State Concord Grape Summit to revitalize and expand the state's concord grape industry. Farmers, researchers, and industry leaders met with state officials to discuss industry growth challenges and explore new opportunities for Concord grape growers in New York. During the summit, several initiatives were announced to help strengthen the industry, including expanding research, investing in new product and new market development, and expanding marketing and promotional programs to encourage increased growth in this sector.
"Western New York's Concord grape industry exemplifies the very best of this state's diverse agriculture," Governor Cuomo said. "By expanding research and marketing opportunities for both Concord grape growers and processors, we can provide a boost to the agricultural community, grow business, and create new jobs in this region and across New York."
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul opened-up the Summit held today at the Grape Discovery Center in Chautauqua County, the heart of Concord grape growing in the Eastern United States.
"As a lifelong visitor to neighboring Chautauqua County, I know there is tremendous local pride in the fact that it is the world's largest contiguous concord grape growing region," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "Concord grapes grown across the Lake Erie shoreline are an important part of the diverse agricultural landscape of New York State. The Governor and I are committed to doing everything we can to support the grape industry and agricultural products across the state. Today we heard from stakeholders including farmers, researchers, and industry leaders, and now we can move forward with solutions to address the challenges facing the Grape Belt here in Western New York."
New York is the nation's second largest Concord grape producer, and the Lake Erie Concord Belt is the oldest and largest Concord grape growing region in the world. About 30,000 acres of grape vineyards are located along the belt with the majority, more than 18,000 acres, growing in New York State. The Concord variety is used in the production of many value-added products, including grape juice, jellies and marmalades, and wine.
New York's Concord Grape industry has a significant impact on the state economy and beyond. A study conducted by the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association, with assistance from Cornell University and Pennsylvania State University, estimated that each year, growers in the Concord Grape Belt produce 150,000 tons or more of Concord grapes on 30,000 acres of vineyards. Dozens of value-added products are processed locally and sold across the United States and exported around the world. Overall, grape-related production activities like growing, processing and winemaking support nearly 2,000 jobs and contribute $340 million in total economic impact.
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.
The Concord Grape Summit, first announced in the Governor's 2018-19 State of the State address, brought together agriculture, research and business leaders to discuss new developments and strategies to reinvigorate New York's Concord grape industry and boost the State's agricultural economy. Based on the input of these key stakeholders, several innovative actions were announced to increase opportunities for farms and businesses in this agricultural sector.
Support research on denaturing Concord juice to create a neutral blending juice for wine through a public-private partnership between Cornell University and Welch's.
Support, in partnership with Cornell University, a Vine Certification Program to ensure disease-free planting stock.
Provide $300,000 to Cornell University for food science research and development of new products using Concords.
Cornell University's Breeding Program will release NY 98, a seedless, sweet table grape with the color of a Concord.
Develop New Products and Markets
The State will invest in several marketing strategies to support the development of new products made from Concord grapes and to introduce Concord grape growers to new markets, including:
Host the "Grape State of NY Competition" to challenge New York food and beverage manufacturers to develop new product lines using Concord grapes and grape juice.
Launch a $100,000 Market Development Grants Program to support new Concord marketing opportunities.
Increase grape industry representation at domestic and international trade shows, including events in Chicago, Orlando and New York City.
Hold two workshops on export opportunities and marketing assistance.
Focus on institutional purchasing of grape juice.
Vineyard Improvement Program
New York will invest more than $1.2 million to help Concord grape growers renovate vineyards, plant new vines, or diversify vineyard operations.
Increase Grape Marketing and Promotions Programs
Launch a new Brandy Competition addition to the Governor's Cup, challenging winemakers to develop a unique New York craft beverage featuring Concords.
Showcase Concord grape products at Taste NY Welcome Centers.
Hold "It's a Grape Day" at the Great New York State Fair, which will feature a variety of grape vendors in the Taste NY Marketplace at the Fair.
Expand the NYS Grown & Certified program to include grape juice and wine.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "New York's Concord grape growers are leading our nation in the production of this specialty crop that supports our agricultural community and grape-related businesses across New York State. Things always work better when we work together, so I am pleased we had all the right partners at the table at today's summit to talk about how we can help our grape growers reverse the recent trend and work to reenergize this important sector."
New York Wine & Grape Foundation Executive Director Sam Filler said, "New York's Concord grape industry is a significant part of the State's agricultural economy and the New York Wine & Grape Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that the Concord grapes continues to be a viable agricultural product grown by NY farmers. By investing in the research and resources our grape producers and grape-related businesses need, New York will be able to secure its place as the nation's second largest Concord grape producer, promote our high-quality growers, and create new and innovative products that will capture the attention of consumers."
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair, Senator Patty Ritchie, said, "New York State is known as the Concord Grape Capital of the World, and as such, Concord Grapes are an important part of our Agricultural economy. However, consumer and industry trends are creating new challenges for growers and producers. This summit, combined with budget funding for Cornell research, will help strengthen this key component of our agricultural sector, find new opportunities for growth and success and help farmers across the state."
Senator Catherine Young said, "Located within my Senate District, the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt is a vital part of our region's agricultural economy and provides a livelihood for hundreds of hardworking farm families. That is why I worked to secure funding in the state budget that will advance the development of new grape-based products by agricultural researchers at Cornell. Today's valuable summit provided a rich opportunity to discuss these possibilities while engaging a wide spectrum of partners in the dialogue about how to build a stronger future for the industry."
Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair, Assemblyman Bill Magee, said, "The Concord Grape Summit brought together growers, elected officials and industry leaders to discuss the unique challenges facing concord grape growers as consumer tastes change and the industry evolves," said Assemblyman Magee. "Together we're finding solutions for this industry, helping to expand marketing opportunities and further research into this crop. I'm committed to helping farmers across the state succeed so they can continue to work the land and create good jobs."
Assemblyman Andy Goodell said, "With over 1,500 farms and over 236,000 acres in production, agriculture is extremely important to Chautauqua County. Our concord grape production involves over $20 million in annual sales and is ranked 1st in New York State and 13th highest in the nation. We really appreciate Lt. Gov. Hochul and Commission Ball for their support of this important economic driver for our County, and their leadership in attending and hosting the Concord Grape Summit."
Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello, said, "Agriculture and the concord grape industry are a very large and important part of the economy of Chautauqua county. We are proud of the many generations of grape growers, including my own family, that have supplied concord grapes for products sold around the world."
Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, said, "Cornell CALS and our Cooperative Extension system have long partnered with Concord grape growers to improve yields, apply new harvesting techniques, and pioneer applications of precision farming technologies such as the use of robotics and drones. I applaud Governor Cuomo's vision in convening the summit to help our grape-growing community in western New York. As we have seen throughout our long history as New York State's Land Grant institution, improvements in agricultural efficiency must also be accompanied by innovative thinking around new products and new markets. I'm so pleased that with Senator Catharine Young and Assemblyman Andy Goodell's leadership, the recently enacted state budget included funding to help makers of Concord grape juice products - from Welch's to local wineries - discover new uses for such a delicious and healthful local product."
Patricia Hathaway, Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association President, said, "The Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association is proud and honored to host the first ever Concord Grape Summit for New York State. The Grape Discovery Center was created to be a venue for people to come taste the wonderful flavor of Concord grape products, learn the history and benefits of the Concord grape, explore and understand the history of why this variety of grape grows so well here, and to shop for all the great products made with this amazing crop."
Brent Roggie, General Manager, COO & Treasurer of Welch's, said, "The Concord grape industry is facing challenging times. Four above average crops in the past five years coupled with declining 100% juice demand has resulted in depressed prices for growers. Many growers have been farming for multiple generations and desire a healthy industry to ensure they are not the last generation. Concord grapes have many nutritive qualities and when included as part of a healthy diet, 100% juice made with Concord grapes helps to meet daily fruit intake goals. Our goal is to have the Concord grape be part of everyone's diet. Our industry looks forward to discussing the challenges and opportunities at the Concord Grape Summit."
David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President, said, "New York has a long tradition of growing Concord grapes. To remain a vibrant commodity in the state, we need to focus on promotion, research, and new product and processing opportunities. Today's summit was a good opportunity to look towards the future and how the state, business and farm communities can come together to address industry needs. We thank Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Ball for making our grape growers a priority."
Mark Bordeau, Senior Director of Food Services, School Nutrition Association, said, "New York State School Nutrition programs are very excited to be part of the States Summit. We are very interested in having a nutritional product such as New York Harvested Grape Juice available for our students. This would be a plus for our agricultural community as well as assist us in our efforts to be a program of sound nutrition and one of prevention."