Despite cold-shortened maple sugaring season in Northeast, US syrup production increased

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Colder-than-normal temperatures shortened the Northeast’s maple sugaring season this year, but overall syrup production in the U.S. managed to stay strong, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Maple syrup production was up 6.3 per cent this season from a year ago, the agency said in a report released last week, and an increase in the number of taps collecting sap from the trees likely contributed to the boost.

The number of taps was up 4 per cent, while yields per tap rose 2 per cent nationally.

The country produced 3.4 million gallons of maple syrup in 2015, with Vermont — the country’s largest maple producer — yielding about 40 per cent of the total, or 1.3 million gallons. New York produced 601,000 gallons, followed by Maine at 553,000 gallons.

The only state that saw a drop was Ohio, which produced 115,000 gallons this year, down from 130,000 gallons in 2014. The state also reported a decrease in taps from 450,000 to 440,000 this year.

Dan Brown, president of the Ohio Maple Producers Association, said it was an average year for Ohio following a bumper crop in 2014.

“Ohio did have a tough year in places,” he said. “It was a late start and then the temperatures were too constant. We just didn’t get the freeze thaw like we really need to make it flow.”

Colder temperatures in the Northeast in February and March — which is when sap is typically collected — shortened the average season by three to four days. The earliest sap flow was reported Jan. 1 in Vermont and the latest sap flow to start the season was March 18 in New Hampshire, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“It was an average year overall,” said Pam Green, chairwoman of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association and co-owner of Green’s Sugarhouse in Poultney, Vermont. “Because of the late start of the season, people at higher elevations had more of a problem getting started and then it warmed up quickly after that.”

Despite the late start for some, the quality of the syrup was excellent and some producers even had a bumper crop, she said.

“It may have been shorter but when it ran, it ran,” said Gary Keogh, state statistician for the New England field office of the USDA’s NASS based in Concord, New Hampshire.