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Montana Ag Network: USDA check-off referendum underway for Christmas tree growers

Posted at 10:00 AM, May 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-30 12:00:48-04

Even though it’s only May, Christmas tree growers are already counting the days until this year’s holiday season, and this month, growers are being asked to vote on whether to continue a very important research and promotion program.

“The reality is that real Christmas trees have lost 60 percent of the market share to artificial trees in the last generation and that has been devastating to the industry,” said Tim O’Connor, the Executive Director of the Christmas Tree Promotion Board.

Like other livestock and commodities, the Christmas tree industry also has a checkoff program to enhance the value and demand for cut trees with the goal of improving the future of the industry.

“We have seen the industry get into an over-supply situation because there were too many trees with declining demand. Thirty percent of the acreage was lost and a good deal of growers went out of business during that very difficult time," O’Connor said.

By statute, the USDA is now conducting a referendum for eligible producers and importers of Christmas trees to vote on whether to continue the Christmas Tree Promotion, Research and Information Order.

“The whole point of having the checkoff program is to increase demand,” said O’Connor. “Most importantly to connect with these adult millennial consumers to give them an understanding of the reasons to use a real Christmas tree as opposed to an artificial tree. The checkoff is also used to invest in production research to really solve problems that the industry really needs to resolve to remain competitive and efficient moving forward.” 

As for the checkoff assessment, it’s 15 cents per tree for producers and importers.

“The whole premises is that everyone pays that same small amount. It costs everyone the same, whether they’re large or small. But when the money is pooled together it gives the industry a resource to do the things most important to the industry," O’Connor said.

Mail-in ballots must be returned to the USDA by the close of business Thursday, May 31st.

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