Farm Orgs Support Tree Tax

Several weeks ago, a U.S. Department of Agriculture plan to create a 15 cent per tree Christmas tree tax was leaked to the media. In the ensuing days, pundits and bloggers mocked the idea as a tax on the holiday season. In the wake of the fallout, the USDA has permanently shelved the idea, to the chagrin of many farmers.
The tax, like many other industry supported checkoff programs, would have been funded by the tree industry. The money raised by the extra tax would have gone to pay for marketing programs and agricultural research. The tree industry, many believe, is experiencing a major decline in the face of the economic recession and stiff competition from artificial trees.
The misguided public fervor reached a peak when South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint proposed an amendment to an Energy and Water Appropriations Bill that would end 20 various agricultural checkoff programs, a move that would most certainly damage the farm industry as a whole.
In order to combat this negative publicity, several farm organizations have written an open letter to Congress, the USDA, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. In the letter, they defend checkoff programs, stating, “With oversight provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), producers have taken it upon themselves to fund over $905 million of research, promotion and consumer education programs annually through checkoff activities at no cost to the federal government. In these austere budgetary times, our producers should be commended and certainly deserve the support of the authorizing committees and USDA.”
In addition, they criticized the media, and stated that, “Our members see the checkoff program as an investment in their families’ future, an investment which they and their fellow producers have voluntarily adopted. We support these programs and look forward to working with you to ensure their continued success.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer