September 20, 2014

Continued public comment sought on proposed changes to maple grading standards

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The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) is considering a proposal by the Vermont Maple Sugarmakers Association (VMSA) to align the state’s maple grading standards to the system recommended by the International Maple Syrup Institute.

Proponents of this change say it will make Vermont syrup more competitive in the international market, believing Vermont’s current maple grading system can be confusing to those outside the state. Some suggest sugarmakers can still use the current system on their packaging and in their marketing materials, in addition to noting the new, international standard grade. Other sugarmakers are concerned that modifying the grading system will cause the loss of a Vermont tradition important to the maple market place, especially here in Vermont.

Last week, VAAFM, in partnership with VMSA and UVM Extension, held public meetings in Middlebury, South Woodstock and Hyde Park to take comment on the proposed changes to the maple grading system.

The Agency is encouraging Vermonters to share their views about this proposal by Dec 1. Those interested in giving input are encouraged to send their point of view via email to [email protected] at the agency.

Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross will review all comments received by the public, utilizing the input to help inform his decision about how to proceed. The secretary plans to make a decision by early January, which includes any of the following courses of action:

• Begin the process of amending the current maple regulations as requested by the Vermont Maple Sugarmakers Association, which could include modifications to the original proposal

• Recommend that the Legislature amend the maple statutes in 2013

• Determine that no changes are currently warranted

Each of these options will provide for additional public input. The Secretary may decide no changes are currently warranted, but that doesn’t preclude public input to the Legislature by the sugarmakers or others who want changes or further review. If changes to the current maple grading standards are pursued, changes would not be in effect until the 2014 maple season at the earliest.

For a chart explaining the proposed changes, visit http://www.internationalmaplesyrupinstitute.com.

—Observer staff report


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