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March 31, 2011

 

Schumer wants to tap maple’s potential

Maple Tapping Access Program Act would offer grants to open up production

By MATTHEW NOJIRI
Staff Reporter
mnojiri@cortlandstandardnews.net

With a new Maple Tap Act, the federal government could provide some sweet incentives to grow the maple syrup industry in Cortland and throughout New York state, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Wednesday.
Schumer is introducing the Maple Tapping Access Program Act, which provides grants to help open up private lands for tapping maple syrup and for research and education in syrup production.
“Upstate New York stands ready and able to unleash the untapped potential of its maple syrup industry,” Schumer said.
The act would authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make grants of up to $20 million per year to support maple syrup production in states like New York.
Grants could be used to encourage land owners to either expand their tapping operations or make their land available for maple tapping.
Schumer said he would push to include the act in the 2012 USDA Farm Bill.
The grants could also promote maple industry research and education programs at colleges like Cornell, and for market promotion for maple syrup and maple products.
Schumer said New York’s production of maple syrup teems with untapped potential.
The world’s leader in maple syrup production, Quebec, taps about a third of its maple trees. New York state taps less than 1 percent of its 280 million maple trees.
Cortland County has about 5,480,000 maple trees. Last year, local maple syrup producers tapped just 0.6 percent of those trees, or 31,967 taps, said Mike Farrell, director of the Uihlein Forest — Cornell’s Sugar Maple Research and Extension Field Station.
Farrell said a realistic goal would be for Cortland and other maple-rich counties to tap about 3.2 percent of its available maple trees.
Cortland’s maple sugar industry generated $127,000 in 2010, which was a down year due to unseasonably warm weather.
New York state maple syrup production totalled 321,000 gallons, second only to Vermont’s 890,000 gallons.
“There’s a lot of potential in Cortland and New York state,” Farrell said.
If the county tapped 3.2 percent of its available trees, it could generate $1.8 million, Farrell said.
In Central New York, there are 45.5 million potential new taps. The act could help bring an additional $13 million in revenue per year.
Farrell said researchers at Cornell are working to link maple syrup producers with private landowners who have trees ready to be tapped.
Two local maple syrup producers, Sandy Wilcox and Elizabeth Metzger, both said they see potential for growth in maple syrup production in Cortland.
Metzger, of Homer, said she and her husband, Dave, are adding new taps on their property. They have about 2,200 taps and hope to expand to 3,000 taps by next year.
She said they could potentially look to expand elsewhere if they run out of maple trees on their property.
She said the price for syrup would ultimately determine how much growth the local market sees.
“The question is, when is it going to be too much syrup?” Metzger said.
Wilcox, who sells maple products at Countryside Hardware in DeRuyter, said she has about 3,800 to 4,000 taps.
She said she’s seeing more interest from people looking to get into the maple syrup business. She said she’s also seeing local maple producers increasing their yields.
“There’s room for growth and interest in growth,” Wilcox said.

 

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