Southern Syrupmakers Association Information Paper
|The Issue: In 2005 a newly re-assigned food inspector with the
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) shut
down several traditional syrupmakers in the Florida Panhandle, including
an educational facility devoted to preserving the state’s agricultural
heritage, since they did not meet current state food processing
regulations. These syrupmakers were cooking sugarcane syrup using
similar methods and facilities utilized on American farms dating back to
the early 1700s - - historically documented practices that have been
both chronicled and promoted by the United States Department of
Agriculture and Land Grant College Extension. That is, they were cooking
syrup in cast iron kettles under open sided facilities with dirt floors,
etc. The making of cane syrup on the family farm began to decline in the
1930s & ‘40s when people began moving en masse away from the
family farm to find jobs in the cities. As people moved away from the
farm, family-owned farms producing handmade traditional foods such as
pure cane syrup all but vanished – kept alive by a few local
syrupmakers who have preserved the quality of pure traditional handmade
cane syrup (sorghum and sugarcane).
The Threat: Within the State of Florida there existed a number of individuals, state institutions and educational facilities devoted to maintaining and preserving the state’s agricultural heritage - - traditional facilities for making cane syrup in cast iron kettles. These traditional, labor intensive operations are not typically profit centers due to the low volume of output and the high cost of inputs such as labor, fuel, bottles, etc. These enterprises are mainly operated by educational facilities and purest who wish to preserve for future generations our agricultural heritage. Moreover, there exist no documented case where these traditional practices/methods have posed a hazard to public health. The cost to convert to modern state-of- the-art facilities would appear, then, to be an unnecessary expense that would ultimately shut-down traditional syrupmakers across the state - - ending an important chapter of Florida’s agricultural heritage.
Objective: To deal with this threat, several syrupmakers within the Florida Panhandle formed what is now the Southern Syrupmakers Association. The Association is dedicated to the preservation of traditional cane syrupmaking. The Association, as well as several of its members, contacted various state representatives throughout the state and solicited their help in obtaining an exemption form FDACS food processing regulations.
Outcome: These representatives attended Association meetings and were instrumental in obtaining an exemption for traditional syrupmakers from Florida’s Statutes; Section 500.12 Food permits: building permits.--.by an amendment to House Bill No. 7075:
"(1)(a) A food permit from the department is required of any person who operates a food establishment or retail food store, except:"
"(4) Persons selling sugar cane or sorghum syrup that has been boiled and bottled on a premise located within the state. Such bottles must contain a label listing the producer’s name and street address, all added ingredients, the net weight or volume of product, and a statement that reads ‘This product has not been produced in a facility permitted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services.’ "