UPDATE: The White House says it has asked the Dept. of Agriculture to press pause on this fee while it rethinks the program.
In an effort to raise money to promote the use of actual once-living trees for Christmas, the Dept. of Agriculture announced yesterday that growers of the trees will now be taxed $.15/tree that will then be used for marketing the very trees that are being taxed.
Between 1991 and 2007, the number of real Christmas trees being sold each year has dropped from 37 million to 31 million. Meanwhile, in just the few years between 2003 and 2007, artificial tree sales doubled to more than 17 million.
The hope, among those who support the tax, is that it will raise $2 million/year to fund ads to tell people that artificial Christmas trees — while less messy and more cost-effective — just aren’t cool.
From the Chicago Tribune:
A 12-member board will direct the money to generic ads and other promotions, as well as research. The promotions, according to the USDA, will present “a favorable image of Christmas trees to the general public,” with the intent of improving the public “perception” of Christmas trees and, hence, their sales.
“We have good reason to believe it will be successful for our industry,” Betty Malone, an Oregon tree farmer and president of Christmas Tree Promotion Now, tells the Tribune. “We looked at what other industries have done, and how successful they’ve been.”
The tax will last for at least three years, at which point the growers and importers will vote on whether to continue.
Christmas tree tax to promote the real thing [Chicago Tribune]