In this issue: Maine Maple Season

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Maine Maple Producers Association

Maine Maple Products

Maine Maple Sunday
March 23, 2014

University of Maine Cooperative Extension

March in Maine brings longer days, rising temperatures and soon, a delightfully sweet aroma wafting across the countryside. Lines and taps are appearing in backyards and fields to collect what some call liquid gold. Sugarhouses and commercial operators across the state are gearing up for maple syrup season and its signature event, Maine Maple Sunday™. Mark those calendars for March 23rd!

Maple syrup is produced exclusively by the concentration of sap from the maple tree. Once sap is collected, it goes to the sugarhouse where it is boiled down, processed and bottled within hours.

In 2013, Maine was the nation’s third largest producer of maple syrup with 450,000 gallons according the US Department of Agriculture. Second was New York with 574,000 gallons and the undisputed king of the maples is Vermont with 1.3 million gallons.

“Maple syrup processing is one of the fastest-growing agriculture commodities in the state,” remarked Lyle Merrifield, president of the Maine Maple Producers Association. Lyle noted that while the cold temperatures are delaying first taps, historically speaking we’re not that far off from start dates.

Economic Impact - $49 million and counting
The maple syrup industry‘s contribution to Maine’s economy is $49 million dollars, according to a new study released March 5th by the University of Maine in partnership with the MMPA and Department of Agriculture. It includes the financial impact the maple syrup industry has in the state, including tourism, the number of jobs created and sale of equipment used in processing sap. “This study shows a more complete picture of the industry,” said Kathy.

Savvy consumers are demanding this pure, sugary delight that contains no added sugar, coloring agents...    

The 39th Maine Fishermen’s Forum opened February 27 at the Samoset in Rockport with presentations that included a discussion with Captain Keith Colburn from the Discovery Channel’s TV reality show, “Deadliest Catch,” to a packed room.

Colburn’s crew fishes for Alaskan king crab on a 155-foot vessel, the Wizard, in the Bering Sea off  Alaska’s coast. Started in the 1930s, Alaska’s king crab fishery was dominated by foreign fleets for decades until the Magnuson-Stevens Act prohibited foreign fishing in US waters in the 1970s. The crab fishery collapsed from overfishing in the 1980s, remaining low until the early 2000s when a “Crab Capacity Reduction Program” was implemented to buyback and remove 25 crab vessels.  

In 2005, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council implemented the Crab Rationalization Program -- a catch share program aimed at balancing the interests of fishermen, processors and communities. The program uses quotas for both fishermen and processors and allocates 10% of annual quotas to regional fishing communities, according to the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.   

When Colburn traveled to Maine  last summer, he said he was shocked at the price lobsterman were receiving for their catch. He noted that cooperation among fishermen in the Bering Sea has helped improve fairness in the system. “You only get what you work for.  Advocating together as a group seemed to work best in the Bering Sea, anyway,” Colburn said.

Low prices aren’t the only challenges facing Maine’s shellfish. On the forum’s second day, Gov. Paul LePage announced that he will be creating a task force to study a problem devastating the Maine coast - invasive European green crabs. Voracious predators, green crabs feed on young shellfish and are especially impacting clams.

Other topics presented at this year’s Fishermen’s Forum included shellfish and seaweed aquaculture; global seafood demand trends and resources for export businesses; and new regulations that could create new closures to protect fish habitat and populations off the Maine coast.


The Research Committee is pleased to release the recently updated, Pulse Check: Food & Fisheries Policy Report, 126th Legislature. Updated in February, the report provides a summary of food-related legislative activity to date in the 126th Legislature. A final version will be released after the close of the second session later this year.

The Maine Food Strategy's Steering Committee is focusing on establishing draft values and goals for the initiative. The committee's process will be informed by a report synthesizing research and information from past planning efforts in Maine including information from organizations working on agriculture, fisheries or food-systems related efforts to interviews with key stakeholders.

The report features information on 90 goals and recommendations from past planning efforts and information on more than 100 food systems-related issues. The committee's February meeting was canceled due to a snow storm and the group will pick up lost momentum by meeting twice in March.

The initiative anticipates releasing draft goals for broader stakeholder input in the spring.
Key links to monitor Maine food-systems legislative activity:
(contact us at to have your organization added to this list.)

Maine Farm Bureau annually reviews every bill that goes through the Legislature and takes positions on legislation based on a grassroots process informed by voting members of Farm Bureau county committees and a state Legislative and Forestry Committee. Farm Bureau sends out a weekly Legislative Digest during the legislative session.
FMI: MFB Bill Tracking  

Maine Aquaculture Association periodically distributes alerts to members on bills of interest to the aquaculture industry.
FMI: MAA Bill Tracking

Maine Lobstermen’s Association tracks issues related to the lobster industry and publishes updates in its monthly newsletter, Landings, which is available through a paid print subscription, or free on MLA’s website.  
FMI: MLA Bill Tracker

Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association periodically distributes alerts on bills of interest to the organics community through its Weekly Bulletin Board.
FMI: MOFGA Bill Tracking 

Natural Resources Council of Maine reviews every bill under consideration at the State House and takes positions based on the organization’s assessment of a bill’s potential impact on Maine’s environment.
FMI: NRCM Bill Tracking

March 25: National Agriculture Day    
FMI: Agriculture Council of America

March 31: Maine Food Strategy Presentation at Piscataquis County Economic Development Council's Annual Meeting
FMI: Piscataquis County Economic Development Council

April 1: Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association meets with Legislators 

May 9 & 10: Maine School Garden Day    
FMI: Maine Agriculture in the Classroom

May 16, 17, 18: Northeast Livestock Exposition     
FMI: Expo 2014

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