This past weekend I had an amazing opportunity to speak at the American Agri-Women's Conference, and while there I also got to connect with some awesome ladies and hear their agriculture stories.
Last week you might have seen the Christmas Tree Tax story in the headlines, and how Obama put a stop to it. Was this a good thing? Not in my opinion because that isn't the story. One of the ladies I met at the conference is a Christmas Tree farmer in Michigan. Since the beginning of 2011 a new Christmas Tree Promotion Board has been working on creating a check-off for Christmas tree farmers.
What is a check-off? Well my family pays a $1 per head we sell to the Beef Check Off. This money is then used to help promote beef, do food safety and nutritional research, among others things. The point? Well my family only has 40 head of cattle. Our dollars won't go very far in marketing beef, but when all the cattlemen pool their money together we can make a big difference.
Well the Christmas tree farmers wanted to do the same. A 15 cents check-off for every tree sold or imported, but this would only apply those selling more than 500 trees a year. The Christmas Tree Promotion Board feels like they need to have these dollars for marketing against their competitor fake Christmas trees - I'm all about the real thing.
The Heritage Network's Vice President David Addington broke the story on the Heritage Network Blog The Foundry. He wrote “Of course, the Christmas tree sellers are free to pass along the 15-cent federal fee to consumers who buy their Christmas trees.” More taxes for American consumers in the middle of the Christmas season? Some present. Especially with the economy barely growing and 14 million Americans out of work. As Addington wrote, “Is a new tax on Christmas trees the best President Obama can do?”
The media ran his version of the story. A saw a couple Christmas Tree Farmer interviews, but those didn't even paint the right picture. They were with sellers that weren't familiar with the program because they sell less than 500 trees and wouldn't have even had to pay the check-off. My new friend from Michigan was more than in favor of having some dollars that could market fresh Christmas trees on a national level.
And with all that media pressure and consumers in an uproar about this "tax" the program was cancelled. It doesn't surprise me, but it sure frustrates me. Why wasn't the farmer given the chance to give their opinion. Don't we know our industry the better than anyone else, and understand the best way to market our product.
I sure wouldn't mind paying 15 cents more for my Christmas Tree (and that's IF the cost was passed on to me) if I knew farmers would have more money to promote their product, and hopefully in the end stay in business. I sure hope that the Heritage Network doesn't decide to come after our Beef Check Off.