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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

ALBANY — New York is once again the second highest producer of apples and the third highest producer of grapes in the nation, according to preliminary estimates from the USDA. New York produced an estimated 1.26 billion pounds of apples and 188,000 tons of grapes last year, combining for a total $358.4 million crop. The standings come on the heels of a series of record agriculture harvests and unprecedented international recognition of New York's agriculture products over the last four years.

"New York is home to some of the best agricultural products in the world, and these numbers show that this state remains a national leader," Governor Cuomo said. "A sustainable farming sector not only grows the economy and creates jobs, but also makes it clear that New York is open for business."

With these estimates, only California and Washington exceed New York in grape production and only Washington produced more apples than the Empire State last year. The growth of the wine industry in particular was cited as a factor in New York's naming of "Wine Region of the Year" by Wine Enthusiast Magazine last October. Other factors included the quality of wines and greatly improved business climate – particularly over the last four years with Governor Cuomo's support.

According to USDA Statistics Service, New York is home to 40,000 acres of apple orchards. Apple growers produced an average of 31,500 pounds per acre of apples. Last year's crop totaled $289 million, a 22 percent increase from 2013. New York is also home to 37,000 acres dedicated to the production of grapes. In the wake of a very harsh winter following the best crop in the state's history, grape growers produced 5.08 tons per acre of grapes in 2014 with crop production totaling $69.4 million.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "Our apple and grape industries are symbols of excellence within New York agriculture and I congratulate both industries on their successes in 2014. When agriculture does well, the New York economy does well. I see nothing but a bright future for agriculture here in New York State."

The state's Taste NY program has promoted the New York apple industry at Thruway rest stops and physical Taste NY stores located across the state, as well as through cider tastings at industry events such as the annual International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City and the Great New York State Fair in Syracuse. Many apple orchards and cideries also proudly display the Pride of NY label on their products.

New York apples have year-round availability in more than 20 varieties, including Cortland, Empire, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, McIntosh, RubyFrost and Zestar. According to the New York Apple Association, one medium apple (about 80 calories) provides one-fifth of dietary fiber requirements for cardiovascular and digestive health and contains no fat, sodium or cholesterol.

Jim Allen, President of the New York Apple Association, said, "We might be number two in national apple production, but New York has the best growing conditions and best tasting apples in the country. That puts us number one in the hearts of consumers from around the world. Snow may be on the ground, but New York apples, ciders and other apple products are available at food establishments throughout the year."

According to a recent economic impact study commissioned by the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, the grape, grape juice and wine industry has a $4.8 billion economic impact and attracts 5.3 million tourists annually to the New York State. The industry supports 25,000 full-time jobs with wages amounting to more than $1.4 billion. Taste NY also continues its efforts to help promote the wine and grape industry, most recently helping 25 New York wineries participate in the Boston Wine Expo, one of the largest wine-related events in the Northeast, this past weekend.

Jim Trezise, President of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, said, "The 2014 New York grape crop turned out a lot better than many people expected after the extreme cold of three 'polar vortex' events upstate during the winter, followed by a relatively cool spring and summer. But September turned out to be pure magic for ripening, so the quality was superb and the quantity was larger than envisioned earlier. Tonnage was 9% below the previous year, but that's because 2013 was the largest harvest on record. All in all, it was a very good year."

New York has ranked second in apple production every year since 1996 and third in grape production every year since 1987, with an exception in 1996 when the state ranked second. New York State also traditionally ranks in the top ten nationally in the production of blueberries, peaches, pears, strawberries, sweet cherries and tart cherries. In 2014, the state ranked fourth in pear production, fifth in tart cherries, eighth in sweet cherries, ninth in strawberries, and eleventh in peaches and blueberries.

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