Just one day after it was announced, USDA officials have decided to delay implementation of a 15-cents-per-tree marketing fee to pay for the promotion of natural grown Christmas trees.
Growers in favor of the plan hope to launch a campaign to promote a preference for natural over artificial trees. Such an effort could be similar to the “Got milk?” campaign for dairy, “It’s what’s for dinner” for beef, “The incredible, edible egg” for eggs, or “The other white meat” for pork, all of which are funded by commodity checkoff programs.
The USDA, initially under president George W. Bush and now under President Barack Obama, endorsed the plan. Officials opened a comment period, with a majority of those commenting in favor. The Nov. 8 fee announcement was greeted, however, by a chorus of critics. Cultural conservatives called it a “tax” on Christmas, libertarians said the government should stay out of the natural-versus-artificial-tree debate, and some growers expressed concern about the timing of the fee. They said making it effective during the middle of Christmas tree shipping season was a bad idea, not to mention an accounting headache for growers.
If, down the line, the fee is approved, it would be in effect for three years. After that, a referendum of growers would determine whether it continues.