Farming Magazine - February, 2009

SUGARING

New York Maple: Association’s 2009 Action Plan Includes Increasing Jobs

By Glenda Gephart

Strengthening New York’s maple industry through continued and expanded promotion and by increasing jobs in maple production are top priorities in 2009 for the New York State Maple Producers Association.

“We need to keep New York maple in front of consumers,” NYSMPA President David Campbell said.

New York was second nationwide in maple syrup production in 2008. Production estimated by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service was 322,000 gallons, up 44 percent from the year before.

Campbell said the association’s ongoing promotions program will feature cooperation with Cornell University’s Maple Program. The association will continue to support Cornell’s research and technical assistance to maple producers by helping to seek state funding for Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Uihlein Maple Research Center and the Arnot Research Forest, according to the NYSMPA 2009 plan for action.

Maple recipes led the list of hits and downloads on the association's Web site www.nysmaple.com.

Job retention and expansion is a vitally important issue for any industry right now, and New York’s maple industry is no exception. In 2009, the association aims to create new upstate jobs by establishing a system for recruiting, training and mentoring new maple producers. Existing producers will be assisted with their production expansion.

Tree leasing for tapping is another key component to expanding the industry, Campbell said. The association has already begun to address this need by working with the Cornell Maple Program in writing and designing a new publication for sugar makers to distribute to neighboring forest owners, and by discussing the concept of leasing trees on state forestland with legislators.

NYSMPA’s goal for 2009 is to work with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to develop standards and guidelines for maple producers to tap maple trees on forested lands owned by the state. In the 2009 sugaring season, the association is looking for permits to be issued and monitored in at least two pilot regions where there are tappable trees adjacent to existing producer operations. Campbell said state lawmakers appear supportive of the concept, and the association is hoping the legislature will direct the DEC to develop standards and move ahead with the pilot projects.

Other issues that Campbell said needed to be kept in front of state legislators and agency officials include:

• The detection and eradication of invasive species that could impact the state’s maple trees, especially the Asian Long-horned Beetle. This must be a priority for the USDA and New York State Department of Ag & Markets. In 2008, ALB was found in western Massachusetts; the beetle has also been found in New York City and Chicago.

• The adoption of changes in maple grading. The association has given Ag & Markets recommendations for changes that would reduce consumer confusion related to grade designations unique to New York. The changes would also bring New York’s grading regulations closer to those of nearby states. The association believes that the changes would improve sales of pure maple syrup in the state.

• The recognition of the energy efficiency opportunities of reverse osmosis. NYSMPA would like to see the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority accept the efficiencies and offer matching funds for producers to upgrade their equipment for this technology.

• The resolution of an ongoing dispute about tax exemption for pure maple sugar. In February 1967, the state Tax Department determined that maple sugar is a pure food and not a candy, and unless it is marketed as such, should be exempt from sales tax. A July 1998 Tax Department publication showed maple sugar candy as taxable and maple sugar as tax exempt. The association seeks to have this confusion resolved.

In 2008, NYSMPA promotional efforts included new educational programs. Vernon-Verona-Sherrill FFA students developed an awareness program and mobile maple exhibit that they shared with school children in New York City. A retired teacher and maple producer designed lesson plans that she also took into New York City classrooms. The association and the state apple growers worked together on a successful fall promotion; and maple recipes were the stars on television cooking shows across the state leading up to Thanksgiving, and led the list of hits and downloads on the association’s Web site www.nysmaple.com. In 2009, NYSMPA looks to continue and expand these successful efforts.

The author writes on behalf of the New York State Maple Producers Association.