Christmas Tree Growers Try Again on Marketing Fee

By Tom Bacon

Hundreds of Oregon and Washington Christmas tree farmers hope they can impose a marketing fee on themselves this year without hearing a political buzz saw aiming to chop down the plan again. Christmas tree farmers are pushing to have a small fee-per-tree authorized in the pending farm bill. The fee - 15 cents per tree - would be used for research and promotion of live Christmas trees, much like the "Got Milk?" or "Pork - the Other White Meat" promotions. 

They're anxious to promote their trees, because the live tree share of the Christmas tree market has plummeted from about 50 percent 20 years ago to only 23 percent in 2012. But they ran headlong into loud anti-tax fervor in Congress two years ago. Conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation accused the Obama administration of trying to sneak in backdoor tax hikes, even though no tax dollars are involved. But for the anti-tax adherents, it was a case of "you call it a fee, we call it a tax."

The Heritage Foundation and the National Taxpayers Union argued the fee would eventually trickle down to consumers and amount to death by a thousand cuts. The quick and vociferous opposition in the last farm bill forced the U-S Department of Agriculture to abandon the idea.

In Oregon, about 6.4 million small trees are produced yearly on 63-thousand acres. In Washington, more than 2 million trees are worth 35-million dollars. Most trees grown for the market are Douglas or Noble firs, which take between 7 and 9 years to mature before they can be cut.
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