North Country Assemblywoman Jenne pledges to restore funding for maple syrup industry at tree tapping ceremony in Canton
Monday, February 12, 2018 - 6:05 am

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne lifts Eliza Miller. 2, to take a peek inside the bucket after a ceremonial tree tapping Saturday morning at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County Learning Farm. Gavin MacKellar, president of the St. Lawrence County Maple Producers Association, supervised the hanging of the bucket.

North Country Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, pledges to restored funding in New York state budget that helps with research, development and marketing for the maple syrup industry.

She made the comments during the annual ceremonial tree tapping at the Cornell Cooperation Extension of St. Lawrence County Learning Farm in Canton. The event was co-hosted by Cooperative Extension and the St. Lawrence County Maple Producers Association and is typically held just before the maple syrup season in the North Country.

Future Farmers of America and 4-H club members provided support during a free pancake breakfast that is part of the annual event.

Cassondra Caswell, youth and family lead for Cooperative Extension, said this is the second year her agency has teamed up with the St. Lawrence County Maple Syrup Association to offer the breakfast. Maple treats, including maple cotton candy, were also available at the breakfast.

"The ag budget in New York State is always under fire, but the state Legislature traditionally works to get that critical funding back in the state budget that we adopt," Jenne said.

She pledged she and the region's other state representatives, including State Senator Patty Richie, chair of the state Senate's Agriculture Committee, would again fight to have funding restored.

The current state budget allocates $125,000 to Cornell University for maple research and $214,000 to the state's Maple Producers Association. The executive budget proposal zeroes out funding to both programs.

"That funding is important as we look to the expansion of the market. We have to make sure those funds are put back in the budget. You've got the state Legislature behind you," Assemblywoman Jenne stressed.

Gavin MacKellar, president of the St. Lawrence County Maple Producers Association and owner of MacK Maple Supply, Potsdam, said the funding is used in areas like food quality and food protection as well as for the promotion of maple products.

"Our mission is to educate and promote the maple syrup industry. We're not your grandpa's operation. It's very different than it used to be. We're using modern technology," he said.

He said maple syrup is also being used in a variety of new ways including in a variety of sweeteners and as a granulated sugar.

"Maple has a big heritage part here, dating back to the Native Americans. A lot of people just tap a few trees for fun. It's just a nice activity that gets people back outside," MacKellar noted.

But he said there are also a number of large producers in the region as well.

He said some of the larger producers have already tapped their trees, but most will be making that move over the next two weeks. He said hobby maple syrup makers will likely wait until the weather forecast looks favorable for the sap to start running.

"It's still a little early. The sap started running Feb. 20 last year. That was pretty early. Many of us are hoping it will be a little later this year," MacKellar said.