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Cuomo Creates $15 Million Fund For NY Farms Damaged By Irene

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday that a $15 million Agricultural and Community Recovery Fund has been created to help farmers rebuild after Tropical Storm Irene.

Cuomo said Irene caused significant damage to the state's agriculture. He said there is already $45 million in damage to farms in the state.

"I have seen first-hand the devastating damage to many New York farms as a result of Hurricane Irene and we must do all we can to help these farmers and our rural communities recover," Cuomo said in a statement. "New York's agricultural industry is an important part of our state economy and the storm wreaked havoc on farms that many New Yorkers depend on for their livelihood. This fund will help New York's farming community rebuild and recover."

Many farms in New York state are still inaccessible by road and damage assessments will be updated, but preliminary estimates are that 140,000 acres of farmland has been lost.

The money will be used for soil and water conservation districts to help rebuild critical infrastructure, repair stream banks, drainage and sewers and restore vineyards.

"Tropical Storm Irene blew down crops, put fields underwater, killed livestock, spoiled milk and ruined feed. Farmers from the Hudson Valley and the Capital Region up to the North Country have a long road ahead to get their farms back on track, and I will push to bring as much federal aid to New York as possible," Sen. Charles Schumer said in a statement.

Cuomo said the money will be provided from the Upstate Agricultural Economic Development Capital Fund and the Department of Homes and Community Renewal's Community Development Office.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that Secretary Tom Vilsack will visit the region Saturday for aerial and ground tours of crop damage in Schoharie and Greene counties, joined by Cuomo and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Cuomo has requested a natural disaster designation for the following counties: Albany, Broome, Clinton, Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Greene, Lewis, Montgomery, Oneida, Orange, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster, Washington and Wayne.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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