Following the emergency passage of LD109; Resolve, To Study the Promotion and Expansion of the Maine Maple Sugar Industry, and Governor Paul LePage’s signature in May, the Maine Maple Syrup Study Commission kicked off its first official meeting this month. On hand to welcome and recognize the newly appointed members to this important new task force were Governor LePage and Deputy Commissioner Caldwell Jackson of the Maine Department of Agriculture.

The members of the commission represent producers from across the state, ranging from less than 200 to greater than 44,000 taps. In addition to staff from the Department of Agriculture, other agencies involved with the commission are the Departments of Conservation and Economic and Community Development, the Office of Tourism, and the Finance Authority of Maine.

The commission’s 11 members were appointed by Maine Department of Agriculture Commissioner Walter Whitcomb, including the chair, Representative Russell Black, District 90, from Wilton, who is also a member of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Legislative Committee ( ACF ), as well as a farmer and maple producer.

This group has been tasked with creating a strong brand for Maine maple sugar products, increasing value-added processing, and expanding current, as well as developing new export markets. “The expansion of one of Maine’s natural resources provides another excellent opportunity for increasing the local economy, job creation, and sustainability,” said Representative Black.

Other appointed members include:

Kevin Brannen, Smyrna, a producer of maple sugar products in Aroostook County

Stephen Coleman, Dennistown, representing a statewide forest products industry organization

Eric Ellis, Madison, representing the statewide association of producers of Maine maple sugar products

Kathy Hopkins, Skowhegan, representing the University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Roger Jackson, Oxford, a producer of maple sugar products with 1,000 or fewer taps

Maryanne Kinney, Knox, representing a statewide farming association with a committee actively involved with maple sugar products

Arnold Luce, Anson, a producer of maple sugar products with more than 5,000 taps

Lyle Merrifield, Gorham, representing a regional association of producers of maple sugar products in southern Maine

Claude Rodrigue, Jackman, representing an association of producers of maple sugar products in Somerset County

Joe Suga, Vassalboro, representing a statewide organization of small woodlot owners

The study commission will be meeting over the next six months to produce a report for submission to the ACF on December 7, 2011. The commission will be looking at Maine’s forest policies, agricultural marketing challenges, state/natural resources regulatory reform, and other efficiencies that could serve to grow Maine’s maple industry.

Specific objectives covered by the Resolve include:

The potential for expanding both the harvesting and processing of maple sap for sugar;

Obstacles to expanded production;

Opportunities for enhancing a Maine maple brand;

The potential for expanding value-added processing and the economic impact of expansion;

The potential for expanding export marketing and the economic impact of expansion;

Structures or network associations that could increase sustainable production;

Potential competitive or collaborative opportunities with North America's largest producer, Quebec, Canada;

Investments or actions that could be taken by the State that would produce a tangible economic return;

Review of models that have been successfully employed to promote other Maine food product industries, including marine products and agricultural products, such as potatoes and blueberries.

Maine is currently the third largest producer of maple syrup with an increase of about 14% from 2010. Vermont leads the nation, producing about 1.14 million gallons, followed by New York.

Caption for accompanying photograph: Maine Maple Syrup Study Commission kick-off meeting with Governor LePage. Left to right, front to back: Eric Ellis, Joe Suga, Anne Lyons, Governor Paul LePage, Kathy Hopkins, Lyle Merrifield, Kevin Brannen, Judy Ballard, Roger Jackson, Deputy Commissioner Caldwell Jackson, Arnold Luce, Claude Rodrigue, and Representative Russell Black

source: media-newswire


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