We knew the year got off to a late start and that could translate to a below average season. We hoped that would not happen and in a way it did not. Ohio produced 115,000 gallons of maple syrup in 2015. Ohio only lost 15,000 gallons in production from 2013 but ended up being ranked 8th in the nation, slipping from 6th place last year and 4th place in 2012. This was reported in the USDA Nation Agricultural Statistic Service June Crop Production REport on June 10th.
It is not that Ohio did not have an average season; it is just that other maple producing states are continuing to improve their production and are doing better than Ohio. The NASS reported maple producing states, ranked from top to bottom in gallons produced; Vermont 1,390,000, New York 601,000, Maine 553,000, Wisconsin 215,000, Pennsyvania 165,000, New Hampshire 154,000, Michigan 127,000, Ohio 115,000, Massachusetts 75,000 and Connecticut 19,000.
The stand out statistic is tap numbers. According to USDA NASS Ohio has not significantly increased their tap numbers in three year. We remain stuck between 440,000 and 450,000 taps. New Hampshire, a state that perennially has finished below Ohio in production, added close to 100,000 taps in the last year and is now ranked ahead of Ohio. Our neighbor to the east Pennsylvania continues to take advantage of their growth potential and has steadily increased its production each year.
Maybe you disagree with the results of this annual survey, I know I do. To report that Ohio has not increased tap numbers in 3 years is beyond belief. But it is not the surveys fault. NASS only reports what they get and they only get reports from a small number of producers. If you consider a large producer to be 5000 taps and above and took that number and divided it into 440,000 that would equal 88 producers across the state of Ohio who run 5000 taps or more. That number may not be outside the realm of believability, in fact it may be high but what about all of the producers that run 2000 taps or more. If you take this into consideration you can quickly see that there is a large amount of syrup going unreported.
Why should we care? In a world that is run on statistics and where more times than not the squeaky wheel gets the grease, Ohio maple producers could quickly come out on the short end of the deal. From time to time the OMPA has applied for funds to help facilitate the industry. These funds are limited and we are ranked against other with similar needs. An industry in decline or standing still will not get the consideration that a growth industry will. I have always said the Ohio maple industry is a growth industry and I am sticking by that, but it is not being reflected in the NASS Report. There are many people that judge a book by its cover and the cover report from NASS is that maple syrup production is slipping in Ohio. Insiders know different but that does not count. Unfortunately the NASS report is the only tool we have to evaluate our progress, everything else is just speculation. That is why OSU Extension took the time to invite a representative of Ohio NASS to our winter meetings. We hoped that attending producers would see the value of the survey and participate. I have said this before, too much syrup in Ohio is going unreported and this may eventually hurt our industry.
Overall Ohio production was average at best. Blame that on a late start and a shortened number of days in production. On the average we started production on March 7th and closed on April 3rd. Ohio producers were only in production 27 days this year. However, that was one day longer than Vermont, which produced 1,390,000 gallons. This showed up in a rea where Ohio normally excels, yield per tap. Ohio continued to slip closer to a quart of syrup per tap producing only .26 in 2015. We produced .352 gallons of syrup per tap in 2013 second highest in the nation. Overall it was a below average year. Lets hope 2016 is better. If you want to read the whole report, go to the USDA NASS website and enter Crop Production June 2015 into search. The maple report starts on page 13.