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USDA CFAP Assistance Now OPEN for Ohio Maple Producers

To read a previous post for additional background to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, please read Les’ article from August.  Additionally, you can view a presentation from the Out of the Woods: Enriching Your Maple Business webinar series on CFAP.  Keep reading for updates on CFAP’s second round of assistance.

Ohio maple producers are now eligible for the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Signup started on September 28 and will run until December 11, 2020, through your local USDA Farm Service Agency Office. This round of CFAP is slightly different from the first cycle. Unlike the first round where you were paid on the volume of sap produced in 2020, you will now be paid based on the revenue generated from your 2019 maple crop. This is an important difference! Be prepared to share records of your gross sales from your 2019 crop. USDA will convert that number to sap valuation, and you will receive a payment on a percentage of the 2019 crop.

The diagram below shows that lower level sales operations (under $49,999) will receive a slightly higher percentage compensation (10.6%) than higher sales producers (9.9%; $50,000-$100,000).  Producers grossing more than that will see incrementally lower percentage rates of compensation, though differences are small.

We know that the 2020 season has not been easy for many maple producers. Reports from those that lean heavily on Internet sales have been positive, while those relying on local retail sales have suffered. With an uncertain holiday season ahead, maple syrup producers should consider taking advantage of all financial support that is available.

You have until December 11, 2020, to sign up. If you have questions, call your local USDA Farm Service Agency Office.

Author: Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension

Ohio State Receives 2nd ACER Research Award in 2 Years!!

We are excited to announce our new research project “Freeman’s Maple (red x silver) Potential for Syrup Production and Resilience in Ohio’s Forests.”  The announcement came in the 2020 round of USDA ACER funded proposals.  Click over to the Mansfield Maple tab to learn a bit more about the grant and what you can expect from the project over the next 3-4 years.

Suffice it to say, the grant will be keeping us busy for the foreseeable future, and we are excited to advance Ohio’s role in better understanding, utilizing, and protecting our maple resource.  Stay tuned for updates.

This is the second ACER award in as many years – you can read more about the Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania cooperative project under the ‘Research’ tab.  (And a friendly reminder related to last year’s ACER grant – FILL OUT THOSE PRODUCERS SURVEYS!!)

Author: Gabe Karns

Ohio Maple Producers Will Be KEY Watchdogs for Spotted Lanternfly

As the weather shifts from the dog days of summer to the cool feel of fall, maple producers begin ramping up their activity in the maple woods to prepare for the upcoming syrup season.  Unfortunately, there is a new forest pest with a sweet tooth for trees in the Acer genus – the spotted lanternfly – that producers should keep an eye out for this fall.  And if your woods has any tree-of-heaven nearby, you should be extra vigilant and watchful for the spotted lanternfly.  While a spotted lanternfly infestation has not been confirmed in Ohio yet, they are documented in Pennsylvania just across the state line.  The issue is urgent!!

Here are some great resources that relay the importance of spotted lanternfly surveillance and train you how to be an early detection participant in the fight against spotted lanternfly.  Our maple woods may depend on it!!

“Spot the Spot” Article in Buckeye Yard & Garden Online (Authors: Amy Stone, Thomas deHaas)

Spotted Lanternfly OSU Extension Fact Sheet (Authors: Jamie Dahl, Ashley Kulhanek)

Great Lakes Early Detection Network app for reporting invasive species

 

Complete & Return Your Maple Producer Survey

URGENT: Please do us the favor of returning your producer survey in our ACER research project!

As you might know already, we (Ohio State University) were awarded an ACER grant in 2019 in collaboration with Future Generations University in West Virginia and Penn State University.  You can peek under the Research tab on the Ohio State Maple site or read this press release through the School of Environment and Natural Resources webpage for more general information about the award.

A main focus of the award was to send a survey to Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania producers to update our knowledge of production practices, where producers are marketing and moving maple syrup and other value-added maple products, and get a grasp on maple production numbers across the tri-state region.  The latter piece of information is extra important now that Ohio has been removed from the list of states in USDA’s NASS maple survey.

Survey science is a tricky business and while we do not need every single producer to respond, each response helps.  Each producer increases sample size and incrementally reduces our uncertainty about the different elements we are trying to explore.  Due to the fact that only Pennsylvania is still on the list of NASS-surveyed maple states (West Virginia and Ohio having been dropped), getting a firm grasp on production data will be more important than ever.  Our tri-state team sent nearly 2,000 surveys to producers across the 3 states and is currently rolling out a round of “take your survey” reminders.  All respondents’ returned surveys are de-identified and we don’t share data with anyone outside the primary ACER award team, and you can be assured that your confidentiality is being prioritized!

So we will leave it at that.  Please, if you received a producers survey from Ohio State’s ACER team, be an active member of the maple community and make your anonymous contribution on behalf of the broader maple community.  We value your input and look forward to sharing results when the surveys are in and the analysis starts!

Author: Gabe Karns

Optimizing the Performance of My Vacuum Tubing System, Part III

The goal of the previous two articles (Part I, Part II) and this final installment is for you to realize that there are many factors that go into installing and running a maple vacuum tubing system. All the factors are interrelated and each one needs to be careful considered on the part of the operator.  The below information is contained in the Cornell New York State Tubing and Vacuum System Notebook (NSTVN) written by Cornell University’s Maple Specialist Steve Childs.  Much of the information is these three posts is a synthesis of past content with some more recent best practice guidance.

Part I introduced basic concepts of vacuum in a tubing system, some different variants within vacuum systems, and the different factors (most well within the control of the producer!) that influence vacuum levels throughout a system.  Part II walked you through how to calculate vacuum levels within your system and how to ensure your production needs are met by your system’s capacity.  The final installment will help direct you towards a vacuum pump that will do the job you need it to do.

 

When someone brings up the subject of vacuum, one of the first questions producers ask is, “What size vacuum pump will I need to run my system?” They will also sometimes ask, “Will the old rotary vane pump my grandfather abandoned in the barn 10 years ago (or longer…) do the job?” The question I also ask back is this, “What vacuum level do you want to run at today and into the future?”

We should get the second question out of the way first. Grandpa’s pump was designed to milk cows, and Bessy would get a little fussy if the vacuum level were to jump above 15 Hg. So the simple answer is that Grandpa’s pump will work, but it is not designed for optimizing maple production. But if you are happy with a modest increase in production beyond simple gravity-fed lines, dust off the old rotary vane pump and run it at the recommended RPM. Moving on to where the maple industry has evolved.

To review, vacuum pumps are designed to remove air from the system, and we already know that vacuum pumps are rated in terms of their ability to remove cubic feet per minute (CFM) from the system. Two additional factors come into play when comparing vacuum pumps. One is the horsepower rating, or the power required to remove air at high levels of vacuum. As the air is removed from an enclosed area the molecules of air in that area become very sparse. A pump must work very hard to remove the remaining molecules of air in the system. The pump must also overcome the force of the negative pressure inside that enclosed area, and this challenge requires more horsepower. A larger pump with a higher CFM rating has a higher capacity to accomplish this task but bigger pumps also require higher horsepower motors. The final factor is pump speed. If you turn a pump faster your will move more air thereby increasing the pump’s capacity. However, over-speeding a pump can cause excessive wear on the pump. This becomes a critical factor when sizing a gasoline of diesel motor driven pump. Pullies need to be sized correctly or performance is sacrificed.

Caption: Vacuum gauge measuring 26+ inches of vacuum

Most of today’s liquid ring, flood vacuum, rotary claw and new age rotary vane pumps are designed to run at vacuum levels up to 29 inches. An important thing to remember is that all pump ratings and vacuum level capacities are preformed using a standard test at the factory removing air from a sealed vessel and a performance curve is developed. This is done in a controlled environment. Now the question becomes what happens when you lower the air temperature and increase or decrease the barometric pressure? The result is confusion. Today, many maple equipment companies are simply listing pump sizes by motor horsepower instead of by CFM capacity. I have personally never seen optimum conditions out in a sugarbush in February and March, and as pointed out above, motor horsepower is only one factor determining pump capacity.

Another question I have is this – “What is the likelihood of that pump reaching 29 inches of vacuum in your sugarbush?” How many times have you heard producers tell you that the pump gauge mounted somewhere near the inlet of the pump is reading 28 inches of vacuum and therefore he must be producing 28 inches of vacuum at every tap in his woods? The harsh reality is that out in the woods he might be struggling to produce 15-20 inches of vacuum. What has the producer not factored in? First, line loss because line diameter can be restricting flow and impairing the ability of the vacuum pump to remove all the air from the system. Second, the producer might have an abundance of leaks in his or her system. The reality is that the only vacuum reading that counts is the reading that is taken out in the woods at the last tap. Today in the age of maple tubing system monitors, producers can know exactly what level of vacuum they have at the end of each line. They can also monitor the level of vacuum at the releaser and make the comparison to the end of their lines and isolate and correct problems as they occur.

To determine what sized pump your operation requires, you should begin by constructing an evaluation like the one used in the NY State Maple Tubing and Vacuum System Notebook. Start by calculating the proper line size for the number of taps you have now and do not forget to think ahead regarding possible expansions you may make in the future. Factor in your equipment such as the releaser you want to run, whether you have lifts in your system and other CFM consuming features. Do not forget to build in some reserve performance to allow for possible leaks and for keeping up with your during peak runs. At this point, you should have a good idea of the right-sized pump for your operation. If you are right on the edge of meeting CFM demand, you should strongly consider buying a pump one size or even two sizes bigger than you planned especially if expansion is in your future. What’s the old adage? Buy once, cry once.

The Bottom Line

You have now made all the calculations and are beginning to understand the logic and principles behind setting up a vacuum tubing system. So what is the return on investment (ROI) for spending money on a bigger pump and increasing the size of your lines? For that answer, let’s look at yield research done at UVM Proctor Research Center. For the UVM study, the goal was to determine yields in systems up to 25 inches of vacuum. The results showed that sap yield doubles when vacuum is taken from 0 to 15 inches (8 gallons per tap). From 15 to 20 inches, the payoff was a 3 gallon increase, and pushing vacuum another 5 inches to 25 Hg resulted in an additional 2.5 gallons. At 25 inches vacuum, you have added nearly 14 gallons of sap per tap.  Even at 20 inches of vacuum, the additional yield is still over 10 gallons. In today’s market you can add a modern vacuum pump, a releaser, and moisture trap for less that $10,000. If you increased your production by 75% on 1000 taps, you would go from 250 gallons a year to 400. If those 150 extra gallons sold on the retail market for $50.00, your return would be $7,500 dollars. At that rate, you have paid for your vacuum upgrade in two years. What are you waiting for?!

This is the final installment in the 3-part series dedicated to optimizing your vacuum tubing system.  Be sure to leave questions or comment below.

Author: Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension

Optimizing the Performance of My Vacuum Tubing System, Part II

The goal of the previous article (Part I), this article, and the next is for you to realize that there are many factors that go into installing and running a maple vacuum tubing system. All the factors are interrelated and each one needs to be careful considered on the part of the operator.  The below information is contained in the Cornell New York State Tubing and Vacuum System Notebook (NSTVN) written by Cornell University’s Maple Specialist Steve Childs.  Much of the information is these three posts is a synthesis of past content with some more recent best practice guidance.

Part I introduced basic concepts of vacuum in a tubing system, some different variants within vacuum systems, and the different factors (most well within the control of the producer!) that influence vacuum levels throughout a system.  Part II will walk you through how to calculate vacuum levels within your system and how to ensure your production needs are met by your system’s capacity.

It is not uncommon during a peak or flood run for your vacuum to drop. If you maintain your lines and are running a tight, leak free system what is the possible explanation for this sudden drop in vacuum? One possible reason is CFM Allocation (air flow measured in Cubic Feet per Minute). In the most basic systems, all vacuum lines are properly and equally sized with the same number of taps per line and all running to a single collection point. The CFM requirements to maintain optimum vacuum will be equally distributed across the whole system. For example, if you have 4 lines of equal diameter connected to a 60 CFM vacuum pump each line would receive 25% of the vacuum CFM (15 CFM). According to theory that would be enough vacuum to run 1500 taps on each line. To use another example, if you are using a 20 CFM pump on a system with 4 equally sized lines and each line serviced 200 taps each for a total of 800, then you would be allocating slightly less than 5 CFM to each line – still more than enough to run each line. However, Total CFM utilization is not always dictated by the number of taps in the woods. One must account for the CFMs utilized by other components of the system, such as if you run a mechanical releaser and other add-on features like lifts or reverse-slope releasers. This reduces the number of available CFMs to accommodate tree loss and leak loss.

Caption: Vacuum Pump with Vacuum Gauge

Now let’s add some complexity to our scenario. Let’s say you expand your 800 tap operation by adding 600 taps to the backside of one of your 200 tap lines. What happens to your 20 available CFMs if you remove a 1” line and replace it with a 1 ¼” line to service the line that now has 800 taps. Now you have 3, 1” lines and the new 1 ¼” line servicing 1400 total taps.  Now you must calculate your line allocation to determine proper CFM distribution.

The first step is to calculate the cross-sectional area of each pipe which is easily accomplished with basic geometry’s “area of a circle” equation.

Cross-sectional Area of a Pipe
Diameter Area
¾” 0.44 in2
1” 0.78 in2
1 ¼” 1.23 in2
1 ½” 1.77 in2
2” 3.14 in2
3” 7.07 in2

Second, you need to determine the percentage of your total vacuum going to each line.  As a reminder, our example has 4 mainlines: 3, 1” lines and a single 1 ¼” line.  Here is a simple way to determine vacuum distribution.

The cumulative cross-sectional area of our 3, 1” lines = 0.78 + 0.78 + 0.78 = 2.34 square inches.  And for the single 1 ¼” line, 1.23 square inches.  The grand total sums to 3.57 in2.

Now divide the cross-sectional area of each line by the total to see what proportion or percentage of vacuum is being applied to each line.  You will find that each 1” line is pulling 22% of your overall CFMs which leaves 34% of the vacuum for the 1 ¼” line.  By CFMs (remember you started with 20 CFMs), each 1” mainline is pulling a maximum of 4.4 CFM and the single larger line is hovering just under 7.

You can quickly see that you are sending way too many CFMs to each of the 1” lines and not enough to maintain good vacuum on the 1 ¼” line.  A quick solution would be to combine the 3, 1” lines into a 1 ¼” manifold with the existing 1 ¼” line going directly into the releaser. That would result in the releaser with just two lines coming out each equally sized at 1 ¼”. This solution would re-allocate 50% of the CFMs to each line solving the problem of line allocation.

It is important to remember, you need to account for leaks that will introduce more air into lines. You might be able to maintain peak vacuum on most average days, but will your system  keep up with sap flow when the big run hits and you need to move as much air as fast as possible to maintain vacuum levels. If you have your lines sized properly, you now need to take the next step to determine what size pump you should purchase.

Stay tuned for Part III (What Pump to Purchase?) on Thursday and be sure to leave questions or comments!

Author: Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension

Optimizing the Performance of My Vacuum Tubing System: Part I

The goal of these next 3 articles is for you to realize that there are many factors that go into installing and running a maple vacuum tubing system. All the factors are interrelated and each one needs to be careful considered on the part of the operator.  The below information is contained in the Cornell New York State Tubing and Vacuum System Notebook (NSTVN) written by Cornell University’s Maple Specialist Steve Childs.  Much of the information is this and the next two posts is a synthesis of past content with some more recent best practice guidance.

When we talk about tubing systems, we have two roads to travel. One is a gravity system and the other is a vacuum system. A conventional 5/16” gravity system is not much different from running sap into a bucket. The yield is much the same as collecting sap in a bucket. When we add vacuum to a tubing system, we increase the sap yield 5% for every inch of vacuum we generate in our system. For example, if we produce 15 inches of vacuum in a line, we should be able to almost double our sap yield.  The first year after installation is always the best. As time on a system accumulates, wear-and-tear hampers performance.

Caption: Year 1 Production with a Brand-New System Should Provide Your Best Vacuum Levels

The definition of vacuum is the absence of air. The maximum level of vacuum achievable on any given day is determined by the barometric pressure. This means that our vacuum level can never exceed the barometric pressure in the location of our sugar bush. There are two way to measure vacuum pump performance, Inches of Mercury (hg) and Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM). Inches of mercury measures the negative pressure produced when air leaves the line. For example, if 50% of the air is removed then the inches of mercury should be somewhere between 14 and 15. At 25 inches of mercury, approximately 85% of the air has been removed from the lines. CFM on the other hand measures the amount of air being evacuated from the lines in units of cubic feet per minute. This is the amount of air that a vacuum pump is pulling out of the system in one minute’s time. Where is the air coming from? The answer is gas that is forming inside the tree and being expelled through the tap hole. As a rule of thumb, there is a 1 CFM requirement for every 100 taps on the line.  However, the biggest contributors are leaks allowing air to enter the system through damaged or aging tubing. This statement emphasizes the importance of managing leaks in a vacuum tubing system.

Caption: Vacuum Gauge Measuring Vacuum in Inches of Mercury (hg)

Speaking of leaks, the most important part of operating any maple syrup system is the time you spend in the woods making sure your vacuum tubing system is leak-free. Much of the rest of the article is spent discussing different technologies and equipment, but the simple fact of the matter is this – the best equipment with poor care in the woods won’t do you a lick of good when it comes to putting more maple syrup on tables of your customers. You must always account for leaks that introduce air into lines. You might be able to maintain peak vacuum on average days, but your system will show its weak points when sap flows are running fast and you need to move as much as air as fast as possible to maintain vacuum levels. Being able to spot and repair leaks quickly is essential. To accomplish this, you should design your system so you can isolate lines to pinpoint problems. This can be done by compartmentalizing your system with valves and vacuum gauges placed at the starting point of each line. The installation of a tubing monitoring system can be a wise investment as well, and the time saved and extra sap produced will pay for the cost of the upgrades in short order.

Back to our lesson on vacuum and barometric pressure. There are factors that have a direct effect on barometric pressure. One is altitude. As the altitude increases the maximum barometric pressure declines (rule of thumb: for every 1000 feet of elevation you lose 1 inch of vacuum). For example, at sea level, or 0 altitude, the average barometric press can be 29 inches; at 2000 feet, the average maximum barometric pressure obtainable is only around 28 inches. In addition, barometric pressure changes under different environmental conditions, and variations in barometric pressure caused by atmospheric changes can occur multiple times in a day. If we are running a vacuum pump under a low barometer at 2000 feet elevation, we might struggle to maintain 28 or even 27 inches of vacuum on a very tight well-maintained tubing system.

Sap moves down the line by gravity on a system of tubes suspended with wire. The basic components are spouts, tees, and drops moving sap from the tree into lateral lines. A lateral line should have no more than 5 to 10 taps per line and should be no longer than 100 feet in length. The lateral lines flow into main lines. In large systems, secondary mains flow into Wet-Dry lines and or trunk lines (large diameter lines) that move the sap to a central collection point.   To properly function, sap lines should be straight, pulled tight, and sloped downhill. To this point gravity systems and vacuum systems are similar, with the gravity system relying on slope and Newton’s law of gravity to move the sap.

Caption: 65 CFM Bush R-5 Vacuum Pump

When vacuum is added to the system, sap flow is aided by the movement of air.  The components of a vacuum tubing system are the vacuum pump, which is connected to lines via a sap releaser. Even though it is called a vacuum pump, it is not a pump in the conventional sense of the word and that is a bit confusing. A conventional pump moves liquid creating pressure ahead of the liquid and suction on the backside of the liquid. There are other types of pumps used in maple production. For example, a diaphragm pump is a conventional pump and that creates enough suction (secondary vacuum) to draw sap from a tree. However, if liquid is not present in the lines that suction can be lost.  A true vacuum pump moves air, not liquid and it creates a higher level of vacuum (absence of air) as the air is removed from the lines. That level of vacuum can be maintained with or without sap in the lines and will only drop if a leak allows outside air to enter the line.  Because the pump is designed to move only air, the liquid must be separated from the pump. This separation process is performed by a sap releaser. If sap enters the vacuum pump severe damage to the pump can occur! To prevent this from happening, a moisture trap is placed between the pump and the releaser.

Caption: Sap house releaser (right) with Vacuum Piston Pump (left)

A properly sized vacuum pump with a proper CFM rating will be capable of removing air faster than it is introduced. However, there is one factor that can interrupt and slow that process – line size. Vacuum lines are designed to conduct air to the pump. If your line diameter is too small, the air movement will be restricted requiring more time for the pump to clear air from the lines. This phenomenon is referred to as line loss. The smaller the line the more the air flow is restricted resulting in higher line loss. As an example, a 60 CFM pump set at 15 inches of vacuum hooked to a 3“ line can maintain over 40 CFM out to 5000 feet. However, that same pump hooked to a ¾” inch line is incapable of delivering 15 inches of vacuum at 2500 feet from the pump. Line loss increases the time (recovery time) needed to evacuate air from the line and restore peak vacuum level.

What is missing from this equation? The capacity of the line to conduct liquid. Every diameter of pipe has a maximum liquid capacity. The size of the pipe that is needed is determined by the number of taps flowing into the pipe. Each tap during a peak flow might contribute upwards of 0.2 gallons of sap per hour. Once you calculate the amount of sap flowing in you can determine the size of the pipe that is needed. There is however one caveat, the steeper the slope the faster the sap moves through the line thereby effectively increasing the capacity of a given-sized line on steeper slopes. Slope can also influence sap flow in other ways. The portion of the line, 50 feet or longer with the least amount of slope, will strongly influence sap flow. Examining this critical portion of your line might dictate a necessary increase in line diameter to allow for adequate air and liquid flow. Remember, you need to move air as well as liquid through a maple pipeline. To do this you must maintain the proper ratio of air to liquid inside the line so as not to inhibit sap movement. If you look at a working cross section of tubing it should contain 60% air and 40% liquid. This is a primary consideration when determining what size of line to use in your sugarbush.  If the liquid level increases beyond that ratio or is uneven (wavy), the air movement will be restricted resulting in a drop in vacuum.

Caption: Whip Connection to a Wet-Dry Line.

There are two ways to solve this problem. The first would be to increase the size of your main lines but 1 ½” inch and 2” tubing is expensive, and it adds to the overall expense of the tubing system. Still, increasing tubing size may be justified if you have a large number of taps coming into a trunk line. The other alternative is to install a dual-line conductor commonly known as a Wet-Dry Line. Composed of two lines of equal size (or a dry line slightly larger than the wet line), a Wet-Dry system can excel at moving sap across flat areas or areas where multiple secondary mainlines merge. Secondary mains may enter the Wet-Dry line at a booster, or a line configuration called a whip. This allows sap to move down the wet line without impeding the airflow in the dry line. This set-up is particularly useful in flat areas where slope in minimal and sap flows slowly which may inhibit the necessary amount of air flow. Wet-Dry lines can be a cost-effective way to move sap through areas of minimal slope.

Stay tuned for Part II in a couple of days and be sure to leave questions or comments!

Author: Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension

CFAP Webinar for Maple Producers

The news that maple is now included in the USDA’s list of crops eligible for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program relief is BIG!  For more details, you can click back to this recent post by Les Ober.

On September 1 at 7 PM, make plans to attend a webinar hosted by Ohio State University, Future Generations University (WV), and Penn State that breaks down CFAP for maple producers.  The webinar grows out of the region’s tri-state ACER collaborative.  Specific topics include how to determine your operation’s eligibility for CFAP, how to fill out the CFAP application, and other practical help to take advantage of the relief program.  Cindy Martel and Les Ober will be the speakers.

Register for the CFAP Maple webinar here.

Our team is proud that this hyper-relevant topic will open a brand new series of free webinars for maple producers.  The series will highlight diverse topics that enhance your maple business ranging from marketing and taxes to tree science and woodlot management.  The series is called Out of the Woods: Enriching Your Maple Business.

 

2020 International “Fall Into Maple” Tour Planning is Afoot

Due to the closures of the spring maple tour, state associations have pulled together something unique amidst the COVID-19 restrictions – the International “Fall into Maple” Tour.  If the tour goes as well as planned, the event could easily become an annual recurrence.  2020’s “Fall into Maple” Tour is a 10-day window that individual producers will decide which dates from October 9-18 they plan to be open.  I would recommend being open at least both weekends.

While not all state and Canadian province associations have decided how they will fund, advertise, and participate, Ohio is fully prepared to engage the tour and make it a knock-out success.  Where else in agriculture can you get farmers to join together not only across state lines but also internationally to launch a cooperative event!?  Luckily, the maple community is a tight knit “family” of sorts, and we are indeed unique in supporting one another and progressing together.

Covering some more specifics – for whatever days you participate, all current social distancing rules will apply.  Depending on your location and what you are offering, producers should expect to see 10-75 visitors per day, some much more.  Think proactively about how you will disperse visitors within your property.  Again, I would recommend any participating producers be open both weekends at a minimum.  And the more you have to offer – even if it is not maple syrup or value-added products – the more visitor traffic you will draw to your operation.

Advertising and mailings will be going out soon for the “Fall into Maple” tour.  There is no grant or donated money available at this time for Ohio producers, so we will be requiring a modest fee to be included in event outreach and communications.  Fees are:

  • $10 – If you were on the spring tour
  • $30 – Ohio Maple Producers Association (OMPA) member and were not on the spring tour.
  • $75 – Not an OMPA member? This covers the tour and next year’s OMPA.

Fees will cover many printed brochures for distribution throughout our communities and advertising for your location through various channels (social media, radio, Internet, OMPA website).  Mapping details will be included.

If you are interested in participating in the 2020 International “Fall into Maple” Tour, please contact me (Fred) at 330-206-1606 or Jen at 440-487-1660.  By email, send your message to fred@richardsmapleproducts.com.

Author: Fred Ahrens, Richards Maple Products, Inc.  Fred is also Ohio’s representative to the International Maple Syrup Institute and has made big contributions to the Ohio State Maple project.

 

If you scroll to the bottom of the Research page for the Ohio Maple Blog, you can link to the 2-part webinar series our ACER team produced in June – Accessing New Markets in This Time of Uncertainty.  The “Fall Into Maple” Tour is an excellent example of thinking outside the box and being creative to carve out new marketing and sales opportunities for producers.

Maple Syrup Included in USDA CFAP Program

As of August 12, 2020, maple syrup producers who have been impacted by the pandemic will now be eligible to apply for financial assistance from the USDA under the CFAP program (Coronavirus Food Assistance Program). Here is a little background information on how we arrived at where we are at today.  COVID-19 has changed the American and global consumers’ buying habits. The pandemic has also impacted the work force required to process our food, and workers need to get food products on the table.

CFAP stands for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. It was one of the first programs to be initiated by the United States Government to help the American farmer. Once the pandemic arrived, lawmakers were almost instantly aware that domestic agriculture was on a slippery slope. They recognized that farmers, who had already been under a severe financial strain for the last several years, were going to get hit doubly hard with the arrival of COVID-19. The first commodities to be included were livestock, dairy and grain. Livestock and dairy were in immediate need of assistance due to a radical shift in the food chain, and supplies of dairy products and meat were backing up in the system. Grain farmers have been subjected to declining markets since 2015. The pandemic along with other world events, such as  African Swine Fever and trade tariffs have brought commodity prices to near record lows. Similar patterns occurred with many fruit and vegetable crops due to shifting market demand, inability to harvest, and untimely delivery constraints. Unfortunately, maple was excluded from the long list of specialty crops up until just a few days ago.

Maple has never been as susceptible as other crops to severe financial setbacks and wild cyclical price swings. Maple producers do an excellent job of marketing and for the most part there has not been a severe downtrend in maple syrup prices. The biggest factor impacting maple producers was that the timing of the pandemic hit U.S. soil at the exact same time that a new year’s crop was coming off the evaporators. Maple is somewhat unique in that it has a long shelf life and is produced in a relatively small region. No one knew in late March what impact the coronavirus would have on maple prices. It took 4 months of declining bulk and retail prices for the USDA to realize that maple was suffering a setback due to COVID-19. Certainly, no one was initially aware that COVID-19 would close festivals, fairs, and farmer’s markets across the country, but that was a huge blow to many sugar makers as well. Shuttered small businesses may have dealt the largest blow to the maple industry due to the sheer volume and distribution of specialty stores that handle local maple products. The second round of eligible CFAP payees again neglected maple producers, and legislators from major maple-producing states started to grow more vocal over the oversight.

Finally just last week, maple sap was included in the CFAP commodity list. The term maple sap may seem a little odd but that is what USDA has always referred to maple syrup with this product label. Maple is not a new commodity to USDA, and it has always been in their list of specialty crops. Other crops in that category include grapes, hay, and more. Specialty crops can initiate a Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) payment when there is a natural disaster and a crop is severely impacted.

Now that maple has finally been added to the list of eligible crops for CFAP, producers must act fast to receive a payment. FSA (Farm Service Agency) offices will start taking applications on Aug 17, 2020. The deadline was originally August 28 but it has been extended until September 11, 2020. CFAP is open to all maple producers in all producing states, and any maple producer is eligible even if you have not requested the services of FSA before. If you have never worked with FSA, it is suggested that you make an appointment with your local FSA office to help fill out the application. There are several additional forms you will need to sign. Applications are also available online. Unless maple producers also raise other program crops, they will probably want to arrange a visit with their local FSA office for assistance.

Finally, USDA will also offer a webinar with recent CFAP updates for specialty crop producers on August 19 at 3 PM.

Author: Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension