MONTPELIER, Vt.—The Trump Administration has told agriculture officials in Vermont that the Canadian border shutdown announced today in response to the Coronavirus will not include agricultural products, including maple syrup.
“I just spoke to U.S. agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue and he made it very clear that this does not apply to trade and goods,” Vermont agriculture secretary Anson Tebbetts told The Maple News this morning.
It was unclear whether employees and executives of the big Canadian maple equipment manufacturers will be able to cross into Vermont and staff their U.S. outlets there. Nor was it clear whether Quebec sugarmakers along the Golden Road in Northern Maine were able to continue to cross into the U.S. to work in their sugarhouses in Maine.
Meanwhile, producers who retail their syrup in the U.S. are taking a beating, seeing significant losses due to the nationwide shutdown to Coronavirus.
“Our maple sales are down over 50 percent, our overall season down 50 percent,” said Missy Leab, who runs Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock, Mass. with husband Rob Leab. “Our wholesale will be down 100 percent for the rest of this month and April at least and remain significantly down for May and June as schools are closed for the semester.”
In New York, sugarmaker Vernon Duesler of Northville, N.Y. was scrambling to come up with ways to market his syrup after the state maple association canceled maple open house weekend, where he typically sold most of his crop.
“We are posting on Facebook that we will be offering drive up service for syrup,” Duessler told The Maple News. “We’ll just hand it to them out the door.”
In Central New York, the Marathon, N.Y. Maple Festival scheduled for April 18-19 has been canceled, closing off the 13 producers who consign their syrup to the 10,000 or so visitors to the famous festival.
“We usually sell a ton of syrup,” said one of the festival organizers Floyd Parker.
Many organizations were scrambling to update their websites to allow consumers to access sugarhouses individually to buy syrup.
The Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Associaton announced yesterday it will be promoting sugarhouse sales of maple to the public.
"Starting this week, we’ve created “Sap is Flowing Fridays!'" said Allison Hope, executive director of the VMSMA. "Every Friday, starting March 20 and lasting at least through the end of social distancing, we’ll post a new activity on our Facebook page."
She said some ideas have included posting recipes using Vermont Maple, posting a Vermont maple cartoon or drawing or even sharing a Vermont Maple haiku poem, Hope said.
Secretary Tebbetts said sales in grocery stores in Vermont of local maple have been brisk.
“People are buying maple,” the secretary said. “It’s a wholesome product. It’s also something that will last a long period of time.”