by Peter Freyne
The snow was melting fast on the Statehouse lawn Friday under a blazing bright sun and a clear blue sky. And there was plenty of sugar on snow in the form of fresh maple syrup over crushed ice, as top state officials were on hand for the ceremonial tapping of the “first” sugar maple by Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. Joining in the pre-tapping speechifying with Douglas was fellow Republican, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie (standing between the Guv and the tree), a fella who flies jet airliners and taps Vermont sugar maples, too.
"Us sugarmakers," said Dubie, "we really don't appreciate sunny days like this. We kinda like the clouds. We like the extremes."
Maybe it was the politician in him that then made him say, "We'll take whatever weather we will get, and we're appreciative of any of it, but we're hoping for a great season."
Next, Doobie-Doo threw out a line that sounded downright gubernatorial:
"And I'm gonna challenge you to do something for us sugarmakers, too. When you go into a high-falutin' hotel or restaurant and they serve you something that's brown and it's sweet, don't accept it if it's not the finest maple syrup grown in the world from Vermont. So I'd like to make you active consumers and to give the feedback if they're serving some table syrup or some corn syrup or something else because we have to tell the great story that we have!"
Gov. Jim Douglas was, as usual, right on message and "global warming" was not in his remarks:
"Maple sugaring is an important part of our culture, our histroy, our tradition. It defines in many ways what we are as a people. It's also an important part of our economy. Estimates are that direct and indirect expenditures total nearly a quarter-billion dollars in our state on an annual basis. So we hope that we'll have another great year. We hope it'll be a good crop. We hope that the sap will flow generously and prodigiously."
As long a Jim Douglas occupies the Fifth Floor in Montpeculiar the "sap" will flow "prodigiously." That's for sure, eh?
And, apparently, our Guv doesn't read The New York Times, which reported in a March 3 feature titled "Warm Winters Upset Rhythms of Maple Sugar":
Dr. Tim Perkins (director of the Proctor Maple Research Center at UVM) and Tom Vogelmann, chairman of the plant biologydepartment at the University of Vermont, said that while newsap-tapping technology is helping sugar makers keep up syrupproduction, for now, at some point the season will become so short thatlarge syrup producers will no longer get enough sap to make itworthwhile.
“It’s within, well, probably my lifetime that you’llsee this happen,” Professor Vogelmann said. “How can you have the stateof Vermont and not have maple syrup?”
Experts say gradualwarming has already contributed to a shift of syrup production toCanada, although other factors may be more responsible, includingCanadian subsidies, improved technology, and a decline in New Englandfamily farms.
“In the ’50s and ’60s, 80 percent of world’smaple syrup came from the U.S., and 20 percent came from Canada,” saidBarrett N. Rock, a professor of natural resources at the University of New Hampshire.“Today it’s exactly the opposite. The climate that we used to have herein New England has moved north to the point where it’s now in Quebec.”