If you have any questions or need help getting to the next step, please contact Kim Knappenberger at ksk76@cornell.edu.

If you have any questions please contact Kim Knappenberger at ksk76@cornell.edu.

Year Three of the Vineyard Improvement Program

PORTLAND, NEW YORK (March 9, 2021) Here we are at the halfway mark for the Vineyard Improvement Program. This five-year grant is one of the outcomes of the New York Concord Grape Summit held in Westfield NY in April of 2018. New York State pledged to invest more than $1.35 million to help Concord grape growers renovate vineyards, plant new vines or diversify vineyard operations. The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County are working with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to administer the program funded by the Southern Tier Agricultural Improvement Fund. This program aims to strengthen the grape industry by encouraging the elimination of abandoned Concord vineyards which are a reservoir of disease and insect pests, and establishing healthy agricultural crops, be it Concords, other grape varieties, or another agricultural commodity.

With two and half years remaining this is the perfect time to submit your application to the program. Removal of a Concord vineyard at least 1 acre in size is required for reimbursement and then that land must be used for agricultural purposes. To date, agricultural commodities replanted using this program include grape varieties (even back to Concord if your business plan makes sense), apples, field crops, cover crops, vegetables, Christmas trees and even solar. The reimbursements on replants are only for approved crops and the LERGP Team is happy to talk with you about that. If you have an idea that is not listed, please don’t hesitate to ask! The LERGP team will check it out and get back to you.

The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is currently accepting applications from owners of Concord vineyards that may be in a poor site, not producing well, or the vineyard is in disrepair and needs to be removed. You can visit www.lergp.com and click the Vineyard Improvement Program button. This will give you more information as well as lead you to the application. Vineyards in New York’s Southern Tier which includes Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Steuben, Schuyler, Chemung, Tompkins, Tioga, Broome, Chenango and Delaware counties, as well as those in Erie and Niagara Counties are eligible.

This is a reimbursement grant that matches funds used to remove Concord vineyards and then replace them with an agricultural commodity. It will match 50% of removal costs up to $1,500 per acre, which may include labor, custom hire, equipment use or rental, and land clearing. It will also match 25% of replant costs up to $1,500 per acre. This could include trellis, perennial plant material – vines/trees (seed cost will not be reimbursed), labor, equipment use or rental, and land preparation for specialty crops. Reimbursement cannot exceed $3,000 per acre with a maximum award of $50,000 per applicant. Because they are a reimbursement, funds will be distributed at the completion of the project.

The application can be found online at www.lergp.com. Click on the big purple button that says Vineyard Improvement Program. Once there you can read more about the program. The application can be found on the menu to the left – VIP Application. You will be asked to upload a budget for removal and a business plan that shows how removing the current Concord vineyard and replanting will be a benefit to your vineyard operation. If you need any help with this process, please contact Kevin Martin at (716)397-9674, or at kmm67@cornell.edu. Once the contract is established work can begin to remove the old vineyard. If you have already removed or are in the process of removing an old Concord vineyard that you think might qualify for this program, please contact LERGP as soon as possible.

The Vineyard Improvement Program has had 27 applicants and has paid out almost $170,000 for the 10 projects that have been completed and another $200,000 projected for the current projects pending completion. One of the goals of this program is to remove some of the abandoned vineyards in the region that are currently a reservoir for insects and disease. Those reservoirs require commercial growers to apply more pesticides to their vineyards in order to maintain control of the pests and produce a quality product. If you know of someone that might be interested in the program, please feel free to share this information with them. This program is here to help grape growers and land owners – you need not be a grape grower.

If you have any questions or need help getting to the next step, please contact Kim Knappenberger at ksk76@cornell.edu. 

The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is a cooperative effort between Cornell and Penn State Universities; the participating Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations of Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara and Cattaraugus Counties in New York and Erie County in Pennsylvania; and participating industry partners National Grape Cooperative (Welch’s), Constellation Brands and Walkers Fruit Basket.The LERGP extension team provides research-based educational programming for commercial grape growers throughout the year at venues across the Lake Erie grape belt.For more information on LERGP visit our website at http://lergp.cce.cornell.edu/

The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is one of many programs offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County (CCE-Chautauqua).CCE-Chautauqua is a community based educational organization, affiliated with Cornell University, Chautauqua County Government, the NYS SUNY system, and the federal government through the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information, call 716-664-9502 or visit our website at www.cce.cornell.edu/chautauqua. Cornell University Cooperative Extension provides equal program and employment opportunities.


Jennifer Russo
Team Leader, Viticulturalist
716-792-2800 ext 204

Last updated March 10, 2021