The return of the Christmas-tree tax?

posted at 4:01 pm on December 26, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

The domestic fresh-cut Christmas-tree industry certainly hopes so — and heck, who can blame them, really? So many other niche special interest groups, particularly in the agribusiness sector, have successfully managed to rent-seek for federal protection from consumer choice in the free market — be it in the form tax credits, or import quotas, or direct payouts, or what have you — why wouldn’t these guys try to get a piece of the action?

Back in 2011, the Obama administration announced that they planned to succumb to the Christmas-tree industry’s years of lobbying and implement a “fee” on growers that would pay for a specialized marketing program for American-produced Christmas trees. The industry really wanted the federal government to charge and collect the “fee,” rather than collect the money from amongst themselves, in order to thwart any tree companies that might not want to pay in to what the industry believed should be a group effort (even if they had to force it out of ‘em!) in promoting freshly-cut domestic trees over artificial and foreign-sourced trees.

It took only a matter of days for the Obama administration to put an indefinite stay on those plans, however, because the public reaction to what would essentially amount to a run-around tax on consumers was swift and fierce — but the tree industry has yet to give up on the endeavor. They’re still hoping they can sneak the sought-after provision into the latest iteration of the still-pending farm bill, via The Hill:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2011 moved to create a marketing and research program for Christmas trees that would have been similar to the “Got Milk?” or “Pork: The other white meat” campaigns. …

Farmers haven’t given up on the idea, and are now pushing to have the program authorized in the farm bill legislation that is being negotiated by the House and Senate. They say they’re at risk of being run out of the market, and insist the program would involve “zero tax dollars.”

“Fresh cut Christmas Tree producers have long been concerned about losing market share to artificial tree makers and foreign imports,” National Christmas Tree Association spokesman Rick Dungey told The Hill in an email. “There are zero tax dollars involved here. USDA bills all costs associated with these promotional efforts to the industry groups that create the boards.” …

“There are more and more households that may be making a decision to display a petroleum-based import from China instead of a U.S. farm-raised product,” said Craig Regelbrugge, who represents the industry in Washington as vice president for government affairs with the American Nursery and Landscape Association.

Way to throw “petroleum-based” and “China” into that succinct little defense — those are always such great anti-free trade buzzwords, you know — but the fact of that matter is that if American consumers are choosing to purchase less expensive and/or more convenient substitutes to American-grown, farm-fresh Christmas trees, it is absolutely not the federal government’s business to interfere by heaping more bureaucracy onto our already convoluted tax and regulatory codes to try and deter them from doing so. This would be yet another seemingly harmless little provision that really only serves to stymie the beneficial free-market mechanism of competition and consumer choice — which in turn only serves to hamper American competitiveness on the global market in the long run.


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Some years we cut our own from land I have up Nort’ which probably means I’m now in line for a drone strike.

Bishop on December 26, 2013 at 4:12 PM

We have a tradition of burning our tree on New Years Eve. Make it cost enough and I’ll change. But burning a petroleum based artificial China tree will be interesting.

DanMan on December 26, 2013 at 4:21 PM

It’s getting to the point that the cheapest thing to do would be to burn Washington!

GarandFan on December 26, 2013 at 4:32 PM

“There are more and more households that may be making a decision to display a petroleum-based import from China instead of a U.S. farm-raised product,” said Craig Regelbrugge, who represents the industry in Washington as vice president for government affairs with the American Nursery and Landscape Association.

Um….. Artificial trees are popular for a lot of reasons. These days they come pre-wired with lights and you can quickly recoup the cost compared to the fortune payed for “farm-raised” trees. The “petroleum-based” product does not shed its needles and you do not need to buy a tag from the city to get rid of it. And, the quality is such that other than the scent you can not tell difference between a fake tree and a “farmed-raised” one.

Happy Nomad on December 26, 2013 at 4:35 PM

It’s getting to the point that the cheapest thing to do would be to burn Washington!

GarandFan on December 26, 2013 at 4:32 PM

Are you including the cost of the wall? Because if you are considering burning Washington without keeping all the rats in place, then you’ve accomplished nothing.

Happy Nomad on December 26, 2013 at 4:39 PM

Artificial trees are popular for a lot of reasons.

Yep, my lib sister was allergic to everything when we were kids. I never had a real tree until I moved out of my folk’s house. Would that qualify as a hardship and make for a medical subsidy?

She outgrew most of her allergy related torments except reality.

DanMan on December 26, 2013 at 4:44 PM

At age 15 I worked at a Christmas tree farm. All I did was dig post holes, for miles, every 4 feet, 4′down. A post hole digger works odd muscles so I looked like a giant chest with a little head and appendages.
That’s my tree farm story.

V7_Sport on December 26, 2013 at 4:52 PM

I’m not surprised the ‘greenies’ aren’t touching this with a ten-foot pole; they must be conflicted as all get-out. On the one hand, fake trees would spare these living beings we share Mother Gaia with from being murdered for our own seasonal amusement. On the other hand, fake trees come from petroleum, and petroleum is worse than Hitler!

It’s enough to make a hippie’s head explode…

CaptFlood on December 26, 2013 at 4:52 PM

A conundrum for the lefties; go ahead with more government control as they desire or protect Mother Gaia from the depredation of tree cutters (trees have feelings too, you know).

Bishop on December 26, 2013 at 4:52 PM

Ok the similarity in those two comments using exact terminology is damn frightening.

Bishop on December 26, 2013 at 4:53 PM

She outgrew most of her allergy related torments except reality.

DanMan on December 26, 2013 at 4:44 PM

Yeah, I’ve got a sister-in-law with the same condition. The holiday was mostly sane. Only one “politics” flag being called over three days. Liberals really don’t want to be providing a treat by talking up Obamacare these days- no matter what the First Yeti claims.

Happy Nomad on December 26, 2013 at 4:54 PM

“There are zero tax dollars involved here. USDA bills all costs associated with these promotional efforts to the industry groups that create the boards.”

Ummm, actually that would be a tax. There are NOT 0 tax dollars involved – they just don’t happen to be taken directly from the consumer. So, I call LIAR on the Christmas Tree Association.

BTW, I bought a smaller tree this year because a bunch of the lots had their trees approaching 3 digits! For a friggin’ tree – that often isn’t even groomed well. And these aren’t being driven a massive distance – they’re coming from the next state over.

GWB on December 26, 2013 at 4:54 PM

It’s getting to the point that the cheapest thing to do would be to burn Washington!

GarandFan on December 26, 2013 at 4:32 PM

Amen!

GWB on December 26, 2013 at 4:55 PM

Ok the similarity in those two comments using exact terminology is damn frightening.

Bishop on December 26, 2013 at 4:53 PM

I assume you’re some lost twin of mine. Can I be the evil one?

CaptFlood on December 26, 2013 at 4:55 PM

Some years we cut our own from land I have up Nort’ which probably means I’m now in line for a drone strike.

Bishop on December 26, 2013 at 4:12 PM

You’ve been in line for years. Please wait until the Dog Eater puts some bailing wire on the drone.

A conundrum for the lefties; go ahead with more government control as they desire or protect Mother Gaia from the depredation of tree cutters (trees have feelings too, you know).

Bishop on December 26, 2013 at 4:52 PM

Which is why Festivus uses a bare aluminum pole.

Steve Eggleston on December 26, 2013 at 4:56 PM

Which is why Festivus uses a bare aluminum pole.

Steve Eggleston on December 26, 2013 at 4:56 PM

That‘s the reason?!? I assumed it had something to with dancing. There’s a strike against Festivus, then………

GWB on December 26, 2013 at 4:59 PM

That’s my tree farm story.

V7_Sport on December 26, 2013 at 4:52 PM

When I was a kid I framed houses. Tanned with white blonde hair from the sun wearing nothing but shorts and shorty Red Wing boots all day. Same deal though. Let’s just say DanMa’am is not impressed with all of the aspects of my growth as a man when she looks at those old pictures.

DanMan on December 26, 2013 at 5:00 PM

I haven’t't bought an Xmas tree in 40 years. If we do real, which is seldom, we cut one out of our woods. Generally we use one of the many small fake ones we have accumulated over the years.

Dr. Frank Enstine on December 26, 2013 at 5:01 PM

If you call it a Hanukkah bush or a Menorah Tree is it still taxable?

meci on December 26, 2013 at 5:04 PM

Which is why Festivus uses a bare aluminum pole.

Steve Eggleston on December 26, 2013 at 4:56 PM

And that’s why the aluminum industry will soon be seeking fees to help market aluminum poles against the evil imported all-steel Festivus poles.

HumpBot Salvation on December 26, 2013 at 5:04 PM

We bought a nice 6ft 5 inch artificial tree this year for $90 bucks at Kmart. It looks very nice and has the lights already on it. It should last for quite a few years.

I suggest the natural Christmas Tree growers reduce their prices from the typical $35-40 bucks a tree here or find another line of work.

Johnnyreb on December 26, 2013 at 5:05 PM

We pay $10 to the Forest Service for a permit. Apparently the purpose of that is to pay the guy who collects the permit money. Hmmm.

We cut our tree from an area where such is allowed as it helps the health of the forest through thinning. Our usual spot is about 4 miles from our home.

It’s fun, and I like the trees better than the overly-thick ones that cost $70 (?) at the tree sellers. It’s hard to hang ornaments on those, there’s no open spaces.

Meremortal on December 26, 2013 at 5:10 PM

I just cut one from my neighbor’s yard.

And then act all sympathetic when he complains about tree theft.

davidk on December 26, 2013 at 5:12 PM

It’s enough to make a hippie’s head explode…

CaptFlood on December 26, 2013 at 4:52 PM

Please, I just mopped the floor.

Johnnyreb on December 26, 2013 at 5:12 PM

We bought a nice 6ft 5 inch artificial tree this year for $90 bucks at Kmart. It looks very nice and has the lights already on it. It should last for quite a few years.

I suggest the natural Christmas Tree growers reduce their prices from the typical $35-40 bucks a tree here or find another line of work.

Johnnyreb on December 26, 2013 at 5:05 PM

Or maybe the “farm-raised” tree growers should go back and see how the industry dealt with artificial lights.

My grandmother’s tree at the turn of the last century was lit by candles. They essentially saw the tree aglow for all of about 15 minutes because, beyond that, they were looking at a house fire. Did the candle industry launch a campaign against electric lights?

Bottom line- this tax is nothing more than the status quo attempting to thwart the realities of a free market.

Happy Nomad on December 26, 2013 at 5:19 PM

How about a dolphin-free tax, or a farm to table tax, or a slow food movement tax, or a community garden tax?

Murphy9 on December 26, 2013 at 5:22 PM

“These aren’t Christmas trees, G-Man, they’re seasonal indoor decorations which happen to be tree-shaped, so piss off.”

Bishop on December 26, 2013 at 5:29 PM

I want a sustainability and no GMO tax!

Murphy9 on December 26, 2013 at 5:30 PM

Same deal though. Let’s just say DanMa’am is not impressed with all of the aspects of my growth as a man when she looks at those old pictures.

DanMan on December 26, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Same here, she’s not impressed.
(But like it or not every late November when we go out for a tree she is going to hear, in –great detail– all about the postholes. “…every 4 feet, up hill, both ways, through hardpan, by thunder”!)

V7_Sport on December 26, 2013 at 5:35 PM

Yet another salvo in the lefts relentless neverending War on Christmas.

Pablo Honey on December 26, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Let’s see, this year I purchased an Infiniti and a Subaru because I refuse to buy GM or Chrysler products.

I guess next year I’ll be buying an artificial tree.

Over50 on December 26, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Time for a never-ending fake tree.

sadatoni on December 26, 2013 at 6:18 PM

Which is why Festivus uses a bare aluminum pole.

Steve Eggleston on December 26, 2013 at 4:56 PM

It’s got a very high strength to weight ratio…

Galtian on December 26, 2013 at 6:28 PM

American-grown, farm-fresh Christmas tree are an abomination:

10 Hear what the Lord says to you, people of Israel. 2 This is what the Lord says:
“Do not learn the ways of the nations
or be terrified by signs in the heavens,
though the nations are terrified by them.
3 For the practices of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.
5 Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good.”

Jeremiah 10 verses 1-5

thuja on December 26, 2013 at 6:31 PM

My fake Christmas tree we used when growing up didn’t have spider/mantis/etc eggs laid in the branches.

You don’t think about the benefit of something like that until you get an infested tree… then you think about little else.

gekkobear on December 26, 2013 at 6:42 PM

thuja on December 26, 2013 at 6:31 PM

ROFL. is there a subject you don’t display your ignorance of?

Murphy9 on December 26, 2013 at 7:18 PM

“Rent Seekers” such as these should have their trees cut down and mulched, and the ground salted for a Thousand Years, and when out of doors, be made to wear Grinch costumes.

Another Drew on December 26, 2013 at 8:15 PM

It’s got a very high strength to weight ratio…
Galtian on December 26, 2013 at 6:28 PM

…and doubles the rest of the year as a Lightning Rod.

Another Drew on December 26, 2013 at 8:17 PM

Yet another salvo in the lefts relentless neverending War on Christmas.

Pablo Honey on December 26, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Yet another moronic comment from Pablo Honey.

Just like clockwork.

HumpBot Salvation on December 26, 2013 at 9:38 PM

A fee on growers is a fee on me.

I know where the buck stops, even if the tree growers would prefer I didn’t.

And, with respect to those petroleum trees from China, well — a lot of people are not happy with cutting down a living being (a tree) just so they can have a couple of weeks of prettiness in their home — so they buy an artificial one which caused no deaths in its creation.

I bought a live “dead” tree, which I will burn in my BBQ grill a few weeks hence, but I’ve wrestled with this philosophical issue several times over the years — the most recent being just now after reading their diatribe against artificial trees.

unclesmrgol on December 27, 2013 at 1:05 AM

thuja on December 26, 2013 at 6:31 PM

There is little risk that I will worship my Christmas tree, or any portion of it — the lights, the ornaments both from our hands and those of our friends, or even the Santa at the top made out of a 2 liter coke bottle or the creche of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the wise men, the shepherds, the camels, the gifts…

But, like the Cross, they are a visible symbol, even from afar, of who we are.

By the way, do you have a Cross in your church? Do you worship it?

unclesmrgol on December 27, 2013 at 1:09 AM

Which is why Festivus uses a bare aluminum pole.

Steve Eggleston on December 26, 2013 at 4:56 PM

No. The one erected in South Carolina was made of PVC, had beer cans, and at least one condom on the end.

Ok, I lied about the latter, but still, the beer cans were there.

unclesmrgol on December 27, 2013 at 1:12 AM

Happy Nomad on December 26, 2013 at 4:35 PM

You can fix that scent thing by a quick trip down to the car wash.

unclesmrgol on December 27, 2013 at 1:14 AM

As a tree grower for 50 years, and having just closed for the final time, shutting down the farm permanently, I have a bit of experience with this.

The fee, .15 per tree, is to be imposed on any grower selling more than 500 trees. Of course it would be passed on to the customer, in the form of a $1 increase across the board, because anything less is an aggravation for a variety of minor reasons, just like prices were raised when the ability to take a credit card out in the pasture came along, with a 2.75% fee attached…convenience costs, after all.

But I fought it in ’11.

There are already Christmas tree promo boards and growers associations all over the country….at the state and national level. We need another one why????

IMHO,this was just a self serving way to expand “nothing” into “something” to make a bunch of jobs that arent needed in the industry, and this unwelcome reach into my pocket was the method to fund those unneeded and wasteful positions.

PatHenry on December 27, 2013 at 8:58 AM

It will just create a black market for trees….

Hey, buddy, need a tree, come on down this alley, I’ve got some beauts, fresh off the farm…

right2bright on December 27, 2013 at 9:00 AM

It’s enough to make a hippie’s head explode…

CaptFlood on December 26, 2013 at 4:52 PM

“There aint been no hippies around here for centuries, man.” Heartbreak Ridge.

HiJack on December 28, 2013 at 8:35 AM

Let’s see, this year I purchased an Infiniti and a Subaru because I refuse to buy GM or Chrysler products.

I guess next year I’ll be buying an artificial tree.

Over50 on December 26, 2013 at 6:17 PM

What, no Ford. What’s the matter, do you hate gays? /

HiJack on December 28, 2013 at 8:38 AM