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Province pours funding into maple syrup industry

While participating in the Quinte and District Maple Syrup Producers’ annual first tapping ceremony Saturday at Fosterholm Farms, Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, shared some more sweet news – an $83,000 provincial grant for the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association.

The funding, provided through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), is to support industry growth in Ontario while exploring quality assurance, domestic market expansion and partnership opportunities, addressing climate change and developing future producers.

“What they’re looking at is seeing how they can expand this great sector, using more Crown land and private land to tap trees and make sure we can really reap the benefits of what we have here in Ontario, which is some great product and some tremendous producers,” said Smith. “If we can tap into the potential, we’re going to see the benefits with GDP and tax dollars too, which we can reinvest in health care and education as well as other key priorities for the government.”

Smith added he’s encouraged the strategic planning process will be successful as it is tapping into the expertise of long-time maple syrup producers like hosts Clifford, Dean and Rylan Foster, whose family has been producing syrup for just shy of 100 years.

“The great part about the strategic plan that OMAFRA has rolled out is that it’s involving the sector. We’re actually hearing from the folks on the ground, like the Fosters here and the Vaders and Needhams and many other producers in eastern Ontario and across the province that can feed into that consultation process to make sure the strategic plan is one that’s going to work and grow this sector in Ontario.”

Smith joined Bay of Quinte MP Ryan Williams, Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association president Frank Heerkens and first-vice president Stephen Needham in the tapping ceremony, long considered an official kick-off to the season. This year the Quinte event was also the first across Ontario.

Heerkens said the funding would be useful in mapping the future of an industry that contributes nearly $50 million to Ontario’s GDP, while supporting 1,500 jobs and providing $10 million in taxes annually.

“The industry is at a crossroads. We have to understand where to adjust to meet the needs and demands of the future,” he said.

While limitations remain on festivals and events due to the COVID-19 pandemic (including the cancellation of Maple in the County), Smith indicated that many sugar bushes in the Quinte region are open and ready for business.

“Unfortunately, we’re not going to have some of the celebrations we normally have, but that doesn’t meant the season isn’t going to continue,” Smith said. “This really is a sign spring is around the corner. The sugar bushes are open and families and farmers are producing great maple syrup. There’s an opportunity to get out of the house and drive to see local producer and support them while really experiencing this great time of year in Eastern Ontario.”

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