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April 7, 2013

Congressman talks maple

PAUL SMITHS — Rep. Bill Owens came to the North Country recently to discuss maple production, new markets, potential for growth and to compliment the members of the new Franklin County Maple Producers Association for their successful first annual Maple School this past February.

He was met at the Paul Smith’s College VIC by the facilities director, Brian McDonnell; Paul Smiths College President John W. Mills; other staff and students; Cornell Cooperative Extension Franklin County staff; Brushton-Moira FFA students; School Superintendent Donna Andre; and ag teacher John St. Mary.

St. Mary told the congressman there were now more than 60 producer members of the association. He thanked Owens for his support of the grant he made possible through the Wild Center in Tupper Lake that helped the fledgling association establish a Maple School for producers and vendors that saw more than 300 in attendance this year. St. Mary, also FFA director for Brushton-Moira, introduced his school’s superintendent and the students, who presented the congressman with maple syrup.

Also in attendance was Mike Farrell, Cornell Maple Specialist from the Uihlein Maple Research Center, who offered statistics on maple production in New York and the region. He also spoke of the increasing interest in maple production, consumers’ desire for maple products the world over and the “untapped” potential of the North Country.

Owens asked questions about profitability, numbers of taps to be profitable, and spoke of his discussions with producers on markets and promotion. He was also asked about the Farm Bill and he replied “there most likely will not be a farm billed passed in Washington this year,” and went on to explain the constraints to submitting and passing a bill and indicated immigration would most likely be dealt with first.

The new Agritourism Initiative awarded to Cornell Cooperative Extension by a recent vote of Franklin County legislators was brought up as a positive sign of recognizing the potential of growth in local food production and sales and promoting that to the urban populations of the state. Niche markets such as birch syrup and other unique products were discussed for their high values and ties to chefs and restaurants and the potential for increased tourist trade in the region.

After more than 40 minutes of discussion, Owens was shown the VIC’s portable sugar house and equipment where McDonnell explained the VIC’s purpose in demonstrating maple production to the public and, in conjunction with Cornell, conducting workshops and schools on maple production.

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