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Some in Vt. not sweet on standard syrup grading

Associated Press Modified: October 7, 2012 at 11:01 am •  Published: October 7, 2012

The flavor descriptions are a big plus for consumers who might get confused by Vermont terms like "fancy" or "grade B," which imply that one is better than or inferior to others but really refer to strength, color or other characteristics, experts say. The ultimate choice varies from consumer to consumer, experts say.

"When we talk to new customers in our case on a daily basis, we almost always have to explain the difference between the grades and why the grades are called such as they are," Couture said.

People in Vermont take their syrup seriously. The state has even gotten complaints from people who bought "fancy" syrup but then complained about its delicate flavor.

"It was just a beautiful fancy light flavor and they were used to something strong and they thought it was a fake," Marckres said.

One apparent advantage of the new international standards for Vermont producers is the fourth grade — very dark color, strong taste — which would include some of the syrup that now is sold only in bulk for processing because of the strong flavor.

But that bothers Bushee, too.

"I don't want to see our markets get downgraded by using the commercial syrup," he said. But Jacques any others say the strong maple flavor is growing in popularity among chefs.

The change is not expected to cost producers, who have to buy labels anyway. They cost about $6 for a roll of a thousand.

The USDA plans to adopt the new terms in 2013. Neighboring New York is working with the industry to propose new regulations to incorporate the international standards, said Joe Morrissey, a New York Department of Agriculture spokesman.

Vermont will hold a series of public hearings this month. Depending on the feedback, the state agriculture secretary will decide whether or not to go ahead with rule changes to adopt the standards.