North Country looks to tap maple sugaring potential

Officials say the North Country's maple sugaring industry has the potential to generate $10 million annually in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

That's according to a survey compiled by Michael Farrell, director of the Cornell University Uihlein Maple Forest and Extension Center in Lake Placid.

The survey, Farrell says, shows that the current value of the maple industry in northern New York is more than $5.5 million and that in the past five years the number of maple taps in the region has increased 26 percent, adding more than $1.1 million in farm-gate revenues.

"Northern New York's maple producers are interested in expanding production to meet growing market demand," Farrell said in a prepared statement.

He adds that the region has a "vast untapped resource of sugar maple trees."

"Most producers, however, have already tapped all the trees they own and need to work with landowners to lease trees, buy sap or process others' sap into syrup," Farrell said.

Farrell is Cornell's northern New York maple specialist and co-author of "Increasing NNY Maple Production through Effective Producer-Landowner Collaborations."

By leasing trees to sugar makers to tap, landowners may be able to qualify for agricultural assessment, thereby earning a reduction in their annual property tax payments.

Anita Deming is director of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Essex County.

"Several northern New York wood lot owners are benefiting from the agricultural tax relief gained by leasing their maple trees to nearby maple producers," she said.

According to Farrell, his survey revealed that tax relief is the biggest incentive for landowners interested in utilizing their maples for syrup production.

"Many landowners have decided to start producing syrup themselves or are leasing their trees to another sugar maker in order to qualify for the tax savings," he said.

Maple Weekends continue next weekend in the North Country.

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