Starting today, the government is imposing a 15-cent fee on most fresh-cut Christmas trees, but before critics compare President Obama to the Grinch, officials want to explain this is a growers’ arrangement to boost tree sales. And they insist it is not a “tax.”
As the holidays approach, imported fresh trees will be assessed as they cross the border, and American growers will ante up in February for each fresh-cut Christmas tree sold. Small growers and all-organic tree farms will be exempt.
The money all goes to a marketing board being set up for the tree growers’ industry, just like the “Got Milk” dairy marketing campaign and the beef industry’s “What’s for Dinner” commercials, both examples of what officials call highly successful advertising efforts which boosted sales and consumption.
Officials also know this is a ripe target for administration critics. The conservative Heritage Foundation is racking up thousands of biting comments on its website’s story “ Obama Couldn’t Wait: His New Christmas Tree Tax.” The article claims customers will take the hit: “And, of course, the Christmas tree sellers are free to pass along the 15-cent Federal fee to consumers who buy their Christmas trees.” It argues Christmas trees have a great image, and don’t need any help from the government.
American producers market an estimated 17 million fresh cut Christmas trees each season. But the real Grinch for them in the artificial holiday tree, for which sales have topped 17.4 million.