Claim: The U.S. government has imposed a 15¢ tax on Christmas trees.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, November 2011]
Origins: On 8 November 2011, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was published in the Federal Register establishing a "national research and promotion program for Christmas trees" in order to "strengthen the position of fresh cut Christmas trees in the marketplace and maintain and expand markets for Christmas trees within the United States." The program included an assessment of 15¢ per Christmas tree "domestically produced or imported into the United States":
The Task Force proposed that a referendum be held among domestic producers and importers three years after the first assessments begin to determine whether they favor continuation of the program. The Task Force recommended that the program be continued if it is favored by a majority of the current domestic producers and importers voting in the referendum. Current domestic producers or importers who domestically produce or import more than
Industries get the Agriculture Department involved to make sure the effort to promote their product is fair and unified. If the USDA eventually approves it, a board of industry representatives will make decisions on how to promote and research Christmas trees.
The program — similar to familiar industry campaigns like "Got Milk?" "Beef: It's What's For Dinner" and "The Incredible Edible
Christmas tree farmers have been hit by the increase in popularity of artificial and plastic trees over the past several decades, and they want to find a way to keep their businesses — mostly small family farms — going.
"I think with this program, it is going to be a positive and build up our business," said Sherry Severt Taylor, the daughter of the owner of Severt Trees in Elk Creek, Va. Severt has tree farms in Virginia and North Carolina.
"Individually, we can't afford this exposure. But as a collective group, it's going to help, and we need this help because of the artificial trees," Taylor added.
The United States Department of Agriculture "is going to delay implementation and revisit this action," White House Assistant Press Secretary Matt Lehrich [said].
The White House was adamant that the White House was not seeking to impose a tax on Christmas trees.
"I can tell you unequivocally that the Obama Administration is not taxing Christmas trees," said Lehrich. "What's being talked about here is an industry group deciding to impose fees on itself to fund a promotional campaign, similar to how the dairy producers have created the 'Got Milk?' campaign."
Last updated: 18 November 2014
Batchelor, Laura. "What Tree Growers Want for Christmas: a 'Tax'." CNNMoney.com. 9 November 2011. Berger, Judson. "Merry Christmas? Agriculture Department Imposes Christmas Tree Tax." FOXNews.com. 9 November 2011. Castillo, Michelle. "'Christmas Tree Tax' Sidelined After Uproar." CBSNews.com. 9 November 2011. Jackson, David. "Conservatives Bash Obama Over Christmas Tree Fees." USA Today. 9 November 2011. Jalonick, Mary Clare. "USDA Yanks Christmas Tree Fees After Criticism." Associated Press. 9 November 2011. Thomas, Shawna. "A Tax on Christmas Trees?" MSNBC.com. 9 November 2011.