Some Central New York apple farmers say they lost 80% of their crops to the spring frosts

Spring apple blossoms

New York Apple farmers hurt by the spring frost could get some help from new legislation proposed Monday by a group of lawmakers.

State Senators Pattie Richie and Hugh Farley joined with Assemblymen Jim Tedisco, George Amedore and Pete Lopez on the "Family Farmers and Apple Growers Relief Act."

The bill would establish a specialized tax credit for the 2012 tax year that will allow a farmer to claim 35%of their crop losses.Some Central New York apple farmers say they lost 80% of their crops to the spring frosts

New York is the second largest apple producing state in the United States. Ritchieâ??s office says the stateâ??s 694 apple farms employ 10,000 people and have a $233 million economic impact on New York.

A series of spring frost did significant damage to many fruit buds that had blossomed earlier than usual. Ritchieâ??s office says Cornellâ??s Lake Erie Regional Research Laboratory has estimated crop losses for grapes at 40-50%, cherries at 100%, peaches at 90%, and apples at 50%.

The extent of crop loss can vary by location, elevation, and what protective measures were able to be taken.

Apple farmers in LaFayette used irrigation, propane heaters and smudge pots to protect buds from low temperatures. Peter Fleckenstein from Beak and Skiff Apple farms says about 80% of their crops were lost.

"It's not like any other business where you say, well we'll hope for a better quarter next quarter. We're looking at a year cycle before we have any fruit on the trees," said Fleckenstein.

Fleckenstein said consumers might see slightly higher prices for apples in the fall or reduced quantities of some apple varieties. Beak and Skiff is still planning on having tractors take families around the farm this fall, but "pick your own" might have to be adapted for the crop damage. Fleckenstein says the farm might put boxes of quality apples out and let people choose their own instead.

Fleckenstein says he hopes grocery chains will be willing to take some apples that might not be cosmetically perfect but are fine to eat.

"We're in this mindset where if the apple doesn't look perfect, it doesn't go on the shelf in the store. This year, some of the apples we do have may have little rings on them, little blemishes and the the consumer might see them in the store. I guess the message is, they taste just as odd as the apples did last year," said Fleckenstein.