AUGUSTA — Maine Gov. Paul LePage was a few weeks late kicking off Maine’s maple sugaring season Tuesday on the Blaine House lawn.

As soon as the governor finished drilling a hole in a huge maple tree across from the State House, the sap started running.

This year’s unseasonably warm temperatures have sugaring going strong in southern Maine and just beginning in the north. Whether this year’s weather will be good or bad for the industry remains to be seen, according to Lyle Merrifield, president of the Maine Maple Producers Association.

“Obviously if you had bucket taps out a month ago, you’re probably going to be losing your season about now,” said Merrifield. “The large majority of producers have tapped at the normal time. Right now I think we’re looking at a normal season.”

The stakes are huge. Maine’s syrup industry, which is the third largest in the United States, is worth nearly $49 million a year between direct sales and multiplier effects.

“Best of all, the Maine maple industry has even more potential for creating local jobs and value-added products sought by customers,” said LePage.

As he has in the past, LePage said one area that could increase Maine’s syrup yield significantly would be the state’s tribal lands.

“It’s a challenge but I think we need to keep working because they have the land and we have a lot of experts in the state that are willing to sit with them and help get them started,” said LePage. “If you do it right it could be a very, very lucrative business.”

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: