Following a push by Maine’s Congressional delegation and Governor Janet Mills, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that producers of maple sap used to make maple syrup are now eligible for direct financial relief to help offset the financial harm they have experienced due to COVID-19.
In June, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in support of maple syrup producers’ eligibility for direct relief from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). CFAP, created through the CARES Act, is providing up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers. In the letter, the delegation also noted their full support of a letter previously sent by Governor Mills, which outlined the necessity of this relief for the Maine maple syrup industry.
“Maine is proud to be the country’s third-largest producer of maple syrup. This is a strong sector of our state’s agricultural economy, representing more than 800 full- and part-time jobs,” said Senators Collins and King and Representatives Pingree and Golden. “Maine maple syrup producers experienced substantial revenue losses due to the cancellation of Maple Sunday events this spring. We strongly supported making maple syrup producers eligible for assistance through CFAP, and we are pleased that they will now be able to access this lifeline for farmers.”
“Like many pillars of our economy, Maine’s maple syrup producers have suffered unprecedented financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. I am pleased to hear that the USDA heeded our call and that our maple syrup producers can now access the resources they need to survive these challenging times,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I hope to see continued changes to the CFAP program to ensure that more Maine farms, of all sizes, whose financial stability and futures have similarly been disrupted, benefit from this important program.”
Maine is home to more than 550 maple syrup producers whose combined output totaled 580,000 gallons with a value of $21.6 million last year alone. Similar to other agricultural producers across the country, maple syrup producers in the state of Maine have suffered greatly due to COVID-19. The impact on this industry is even more acute than most, however, given its short season from late February to mid-April and heavy reliance on direct-to-consumer sales.
Every March, sugarhouses across Maine host Maple Sunday events, an annual celebration showcasing maple syrup operations throughout Maine that serves as a catalyst for sales. Due to the pandemic, this collection of events was effectively canceled this year, eliminating many producers’ best opportunity to connect with consumers and secure sales.
CFAP was established to provide “vital assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.” To date, a total of more than $14 million has been awarded through CFAP to Maine farmers to help offset the financial harm they have experienced due to COVID-19.
The USDA is continuing to accept applications from farmers through September 11. More information about CFAP and the application process can be found on USDA’s resource page: Farmers.gov/cfap.
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