Senator Steve Saland (R,I,C Poughkeepsie) today announced Senate passage of his bill to encourage the cultivation of black currants and gooseberries as a boon to agribusiness in New York.
Historically, it was believed that black currents and gooseberries carried white pine rust blister, a disease capable of destroying entire stands of white pine trees, a staple of the timber industry, and their cultivation was outlawed by the federal government in 1911. The law was ultimately overturned in the 1960s. Current Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) law and regulations, however, still cling to the mistaken belief that these fruits are dangerous, and they cannot be grown except within certain fruiting currant districts designated by DEC. Studies have shown that modern-day crops of black currants and gooseberries are not dangerous to white pines. Additionally, they are considered a profitable cash crop. A 2002 study by Grow New York predicted a $100 million currant industry nationwide and a $20 million industry in New York.
Senate Bill 2827 would amend Environmental Conservation Law to repeal the provision that DEC can arbitrarily define areas in which black currants and gooseberries can be grown.
"We have known for decades that these fruits are not dangerous to the timber industry," said Senator Saland. "Many other states have grown them for years with no harm to their white pine timber stands. This is a matter of economics -- New York farmers are missing out on a crop that could be a huge boon to agribusiness in this State. The number of healthy products which can be produced from these fruits is almost limitless. I have communicated with DEC asking them to relax their regulations but to no avail. This change in law will keep New York from missing out on a lucrative cash crop."
According to Greg Quinn, President of The Currant Company, "A debt of gratitude is owed to Senators Saland and Larkin for recognizing the value of this once forbidden fruit to New York Agribusiness and championing this effort. The great irony of this saga was that only those varieties of currants and gooseberries that are resistant to White Pine Blister Rust will reliably produce fruit and no farmer is going to grow plants that don't produce a crop. There was never a need for the ban in the first place but it wasn't until Senators Saland and Larkin joined me in the fight to overturn this law that legalization became a reality."
The bill has been sent to the Assembly for consideration.