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      Maple syrup farmers look to tap into state's potential growth

      A group of local farmers are asking the state for support to help make Michigan a global force in the maple syrup industry.

      M ichigan has more than 275 million sugar maple trees ready to be tapped , but less than 1% are being used each year for syrup production.

      C raig Waldron is the largest maple syrup producer in the state. His farm, Far Hills Maple Syrup, in Alanson has more than 28 thousand maple tree taps.

      " Michigan has more maple trees than all of Quebec does just by itself and Quebec makes 85-88% of syrup in the world," Waldron said.

      He says he is tired of watching Canada dominate the industry, when there is plenty of untapped potential right here in the state.

      " We only tap less than two tenths of 1% of the available maple trees that the state has," Waldron said.

      W aldr o n chairs the Commercial Maple Syrup Producers of Michigan organization, which recently received a $10,000 grant from the state to pursue a study about the possible growth of the industry.

      " If Michigan was even to go to the level of utilization of Vermont does it would grow Michigan ' s industry by millions and millions and millions of dollars ," Waldron said.

      S tudies show that if Michigan farmers just tapped 3% of the state's trees, they would make nearly $80 million a year. Which would dwarf Vermont, that at the same rate makes $30 million annually.

      " Vermont has just done a lot better job as a state of promoting the industry and that's one of the things we hope to change ," Waldron said.

      T h e grant is part of a $2.5 million program set up to expand Michigan's agriculture industry.