AP NEWS

Sen. Schumer wraps annual tour of every New York county

December 23, 2019 GMT
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, front, speaks during a visit to Walker Farms, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, in Hudson Falls, N.Y. The Senate's top Democrat concluded his annual 62-county tour visiting the final two counties, Fulton County and Washington County, where he met with firefighters about federal grant funding and then visiting a heifer farm to discuss the rate of farmer and rancher suicides. (AP Photo/Mike Balsamo)
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, front, speaks during a visit to Walker Farms, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, in Hudson Falls, N.Y. The Senate's top Democrat concluded his annual 62-county tour visiting the final two counties, Fulton County and Washington County, where he met with firefighters about federal grant funding and then visiting a heifer farm to discuss the rate of farmer and rancher suicides. (AP Photo/Mike Balsamo)

HUDSON FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — Sen. Chuck Schumer wrapped up his 21st annual tour of all 62 counties in New York state on Monday.

The Senate’s top Democrat visited the final two counties, Fulton County and Washington County, meeting with firefighters about federal grant funding and then visiting a heifer farm to discuss the rate of farmer and rancher suicides.

Schumer has made a point of annually visiting each New York county since he became a senator two decades ago.

“Not only has this ritual remained a steadfast passion of mine because I get to see the absolute best that New York has to offer, but because of all I learn from my constituents and bring to Washington, D.C.,” he said.

Schumer stood shoulder to shoulder with firefighters at the Johnstown Fire Department, calling on the federal government to award more funding to fire departments in New York to hire new firefighters and to purchase new trucks and safety gear.

Only 26% of applications from New York fire agencies were approved this year for the federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant, which is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Schumer said. With the low number of grants awarded in New York, fire departments across the state are potentially facing dangerous situations and could be left with outdated or failing equipment, he argues.

Later in the day, Schumer visited Walker Farms in Hudson Falls, where he called on federal officials to conduct a specific study on farmer and rancher suicides, citing a suicide rate that is 3 1/2 times the national average. He called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a comprehensive study on farmer suicides, arguing the government’s current data isn’t comprehensive enough.

In the past few years, suicides among farmers across the country have appeared to increase, Schumer said, pointing to financial stress, climate issues and weather challenges.

Larry Bailey, whose farm Schumer visited, said the industry has changed in the past decade but has become particularly more difficult in recent years as operating costs continue to rise.

“The price of milk hasn’t gone up as fast of the price of fuel,” he said.

Schumer also called on fellow congressional lawmakers to quickly pass legislation known as the Seeding Rural Resilience Act, which would establish a number of initiatives designed to quell farmer suicides.