Farm bill means new charge for Christmas tree growers
Caroline Harris / (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The farm bill was approved in the House 251-66 on Wednesday. The nearly 1000-page bill is being widely hailed as a successful bipartisan effort, which, alternatively, means that neither party is very pleased with it and it’s packed with plenty of pork.
With $956 billion dollars in funding over five years, the bill consists of more provisions for food stamps than farming.
The long-debated USDA Christmas tree checkoff program is provided for in the bill. The checkoff program creates a national Christmas tree board that will provide an industry-funded promotion, research and information program for Christmas trees. The USDA already has checkoff programs in place for beef, blueberries, cotton, dairy products, eggs, milk, avocados, honey, lamb, mangos, mushrooms, peanuts, popcorn, pork, potatoes, sorghum, soybean and watermelon.
Promotional campaigns funded by checkoff programs include “The Incredible, Edible Egg,” “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner,” “Pork. The Other White Meat” and “Got Milk?” In order to pay for the Christmas tree’s yet-to-be-named campaign, Christmas tree growers must pay 15 cents per tree harvested, unless less than 500 trees are harvested that year. One of the primary purposes of the promotion is to make American-grown Christmas trees competitive against Chinese-imported artificial Christmas trees.
Detractors from the checkoff program have called it a Christmas tree tax, though it is not technically a tax and no tax dollars are involved in checkoff programs, except for administrative costs.According to Jennifer Greene of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, the program was requested by the Christmas tree industry in 2009 and has gone through two industry-wide comment periods, during which 565 comments were submitted from interested parties. According to Greene, nearly 90 percent of the state and multi-state associations that posted comments indicated that they were in favor of the program.
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