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ALBANY The U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend $11.5 million to purchase surplus Concord grape juice from upstate New York growers to use in domestic nutrition programs, Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand announced Friday.

Schumer and Gillibrand petitioned for the USDA to purchase the surplus grapes to keep grape juice prices stable. New York has 381 grape growers and over 9,7000 acres of Concord vineyards, and the industry is expected to have a strong year of production.

"The USDA's decision to heed our call and purchase more grapes ahead of this year's harvest is a win-win for New York growers and individuals receiving nutrition assistance," Schumer said in a statement. "More juice sales mean more profit for our growers."

Surplus grapes purchases will come from Winegrape Growers Inc., an association of grape farmers; Clearview Farms in in Branchport, Yates County; and Giancarelli Brothers in Weedsport, Cayuga County.

The USDA will use Section 32 funds to purchase the grapes, which are used to purchase agriculture products that in turn used for nutrition programs, such as the school-lunch program.

In the senators' petition to the USDA in August, they said surplus purchases of Concord grape juice by the USDA in 2006 and 2007 helped stabilize and benefit the industry.

This year's crop is expected to be "dramatically larger than historic levels," which would drive down value and profits for growers, the senator said.

"New York's world-class vineyards produce some of the finest grapes, grown by hard-working farm families," Gillibrand said in a statement. "When we connect our grape growers in western New York and the Finger Lakes, we can help strengthen our agriculture economy, while bringing healthy nutritious grape juice to school children across the country."

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