Legislator wants Maine to expand maple syrup industry

Posted Feb. 03, 2011, at 6:20 a.m.
Last modified Feb. 05, 2011, at 6:07 p.m.
Bottles of different grades of maple syrup sit near a window recently. Maine is one of the nation's top three producers of syrup, ranking well behind Vermont and just a little behind New York State.
Bottles of different grades of maple syrup sit near a window recently. Maine is one of the nation's top three producers of syrup, ranking well behind Vermont and just a little behind New York State.

RUMFORD, Maine — A local lawmaker wants Maine to tap into the unrealized potential for growing its maple syrup industry.

State Rep. Matt Peterson, D-Rumford, said Friday by e-mail that he’s submitted a resolve to create a commission that would study the potential for expanding the Maine Maple Sugar Industry.

It would also determine how to strengthen the brand of Maine maple products to better utilize existing natural resources, create new value-added job opportunities, and expand export markets.

Maine is one of the nation’s top three producers of maple syrup, ranking well behind Vermont and just a little behind New York State, he said.

“Although Vermont is the recognized leader among United States maple producers with a very strong brand identity and annual production that is more than double what Maine markets, Maine forests contain 50 percent more hard maple trees than Vermont forests, based on U.S. Forest Service inventories,” Peterson said.

The Province of Quebec in Canada, which borders much of Maine’s northern and western boundaries, is the largest producer in North America.

“Given our forest resources, a growing export for maple products, and our relatively low production in relationship to the total inventory of hard maple trees, the Maine Maple Commission will be established to examine the potential for growing Maine’s maple industry,” Peterson said.

Using successful models that have already been employed to promote other Maine food product industries — including marine products and agricultural goods like potatoes — the commission would be tasked to examine the following:

  • Potential for expanding both the harvesting and processing of maple sap for sugar.
  • Obstacles to expanded production.
  • Opportunities for enhancing a Maine Maple brand.
  • Value-added processing potential and its economic implications.
  • Increase export marketing potential and its economic implications.
  • Structures or network associations that could increase sustainable production.
  • Potential competitive or collaborative opportunities with Quebec.
  • Investment or actions that could be taken by the state that would generate a tangible economic return.

Peterson said the commission would be established and begin to function at the end of the first regular session of the 125th Maine Legislature. It would then make an interim report to the second regular session of the 125th, and be prepared to offer a complete report and recommendations to the 126th Maine Legislature.

The commission would be composed of two members of the Senate, appointed by the Senate president; two members of the House of Representatives, appointed by the Speaker of the House; one representative each from the Department of Agriculture, Department of Conservation, and the Finance Authority of Maine; and five Maine citizens, appointed by Gov. Paul LePage, who would represent Maine maple producers, large landowners, and small woodlot owners.

The commission is to seek funding contributions to fully fund the costs of the study, subject to approval by the Legislative Council.

Acts and resolves of the Legislature do not become effective until 90 days after adjournment unless enacted as emergencies.

That’s why Peterson is seeking emergency status, because the commission’s study must be initiated before the 90-day period expires.

On approval, the legislation would become effective.

The resolve was referred on Jan. 20 to the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

The committee will hold a public hearing on LD 109 at 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10, in Room 206 of the Cross Office Building in Augusta.

Copyright (c) 2011, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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