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Katy Burns

Katy Burns: Know what we need? A strategic syrup reserve

In just two days another new year rolls into town. And quite a year it promises to be.

At the State House, the dis-empowered Democrats of two years ago are suddenly re-empowered and threatening to undo all of what they see as the mischief perpetrated by the now dis-empowered Republicans, while those same Republicans vow to fight any attempt to drag the state back into the 21st century.

Meanwhile in our nation’s capital, the country’s leaders are setting a splendid example of sheer stubbornness and willful refusal to compromise that will no doubt inspire today’s kindergartners to run away and join the circus in an attempt to keep from growing up altogether.

And we, the ordinary citizens of these United States, are left to brood about the fiscal cliff – or is it just sort of a nice, gradual fiscal bunny slope? – that, as of this writing, will arrive on Tuesday.

Will it be a cataclysmic, life-changing “American civilization as we know it takes a collective Thelma and Louise dive into emptiness” disaster? Or will it be an “eh, just like Y2K” moment in time?

Or, unlikely as it looks now, will peace and enlightenment suddenly envelop Washington, solving all our problems?

Oh, so many questions! So many worries!

And here’s the biggest one of all.

How are we – as a state and as a nation – going to close the maple syrup gap? And where is our strategic maple syrup reserve?

Like most Americans, including Granite Staters, I was until recently happily ignorant of our lack of a strategic maple syrup reserve. In fact, I didn’t even know there were strategic maple syrup reserves. I didn’t know, that is, until I heard on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me that dastardly thieves had been systematically pilfering from Canada’s strategic maple syrup reserve. By the way, it goes without saying that incisive, detailed foreign reporting like this is a prime example of why we need public radio.

My first reaction was: Canada has a strategic maple syrup reserve?

My second reaction, of course, was: Why don’t we have one? A more detailed investigation was needed. And what the heck, it’s cold outside, and TV is mostly reruns.

Turns out that these were no petty thefts. The malefactors, before they were discovered, had vamoosed with 775,000 gallons of maple syrup worth some $18 million. Somebody could drench many truckloads of pancakes with that much maple syrup.

And that purloined maple syrup, it turns out, was only a

drop in the Canadian maple syrup bucket . . . er, strategic maple syrup reserve. A mouthpiece for the Canadian maple syrup cartel – yes, cartel, just like OPEC but much better smelling and tasting – says that at any given time up to 46 million pounds, or 8.5 million gallons, of the sticky sweet stuff are stored in a series of warehouses across Quebec.

In fact, Canada produces 75 percent of the world’s maple syrup, most of it in Quebec. And since syrup production is subject to the vagaries of weather and thus supplies vary from year to year, producers – the aforementioned cartel – do their best to control the availability and price of the golden nectar. Thus warehouses of the stuff dot the Quebec countryside, where enterprising thieves took advantage of them.

After all, whoever would think of stealing maple syrup?

Ultimately the Mounties got their men. The thefts have ended, although identifying the stolen syrup may be difficult. As one stymied sleuth sensibly pointed out, maple syrup doesn’t come with bar codes.

And that leaves the rest of us, especially in New Hampshire, to ponder our status. Clearly, we need to work on the maple syrup production gap. But more important is that we need a strategic maple syrup reserve of our own.

We can’t expect our national leaders to lead the way. Good grief, our president is from Hawaii! A pineapple reserve would be more likely to win his support. The rest of the D.C. hierarchy is no better, hailing as they do from such non-maple syrup places as Missouri, Nevada and southern Ohio (even if northeastern Ohio is in the maple syrup belt).

We in New Hampshire have to depend on ourselves. God knows up ’til now our state’s pols have been stunningly indifferent to our appalling lack of a strategic maple syrup reserve, possibly because, like the rest of us, they’d never heard of such a thing.

If belligerent Bill O’Brien were still ruling the roost in the House of Representatives, I’ve no doubt he’d be on the case immediately. After all, what better enemy can a pol spoiling for a fight hope for than one notably fond of understated responses, Molson beer and poutine?

But now our current crop of officials is on notice. Hear that, Maggie Hassan, Terie Norelli, Peter Bragdon? We, the sovereign citizens of the good state of New Hampshire, expect you, our leaders, to lay the groundwork immediately for a Granite State Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve. We will no longer be dominated by that bully to the north.

And maybe it’s time to dust off that old plan to invade Canada. You remember that, surely? Not too long ago some a dusty old government archive in D.C. or thereabouts spilled the dirt about our country’s contingency plan for invading our neighbor to the north, un-neighborly as that might have seemed.

Back in 1934, it seems, a newly developed U. S. Army planning division needed something to do, so it developed a series of secret contingency plans, including one that envisioned a war with Great Britain. As part of that plan, we’d invade Britain’s Commonwealth ally, Canada.

Which was pretty interesting, because in we’ve also learned that Canada – perhaps anticipating that same war (despite our being allies in the just-concluded Great War) – had in 1921 secretly hatched its own plan to invade the U.S. Their troops would march on Albany, Minneapolis, Seattle and Great Falls, Mont., to secure a foothold here until their British reinforcements arrived.

It seems clear, in retrospect, that army planning departments, generally, had entirely too much time on their hands back then.

In any event, the important thing is that there is a plan. And it could no doubt easily be dusted off and implemented. Why not? After all, how can we be sure that all that so-called Canadian maple syrup is, in fact, truly Canadian?

Who among us can say that, even as I write, an army of Quebec sugar farmers isn’t invading us, stealthily sneaking across the border and tapping good, patriotic New Hampshire sugar maples so that, come spring, they can add our maple sap to their strategic maple syrup reserve?

Fellow Granite Staters, 2013 is the time for action. Or, as our northern foes might say,

(Monitor columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

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