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Agriculture's Big Picture


AgWeb Editor Greg Vincent takes a big-picture look at agriculture and current events.

Christmas Trees? Yeah, That's Our Problem

Nov 09, 2011
Freedom of speech should never be infringed upon. Ever. But it doesn't mean it always should be exercised, either.
Late Monday night I did my usual surfing of the latest news on my iPad, checking news from traditional news sources, in addition to some of the more left and right leaning sites. So when I stumbled across the BIG headline on the Drudge Report about Obama’s Christmas Tree Tax, I was intrigued. I admit, it had me riled. How could the President impose a tax on Christmas trees?
He didn't. 
The link took me to a story from The Heritage Foundation blog about the proposed 15-cent "tax" on fresh cut Christmas trees. They were exercising their right to free speech. The just weren't exercising the implied responsibility that comes with that right. The "tax", the blog explained, was being administered by "Obama’s Agriculture Department" under direction from Congress.
For those of us in agriculture, you might associate this more as a checkoff program. A farmer-funded checkoff program. A farmer-funded checkoff program that was requested by the nation’s Christmas tree growers, and approved by them. Which is exaclty what this is. Or what it was, as it turns out.
This is not an attempt to slam the left or the right. It’s not an attempt to defend checkoff programs. While I do believe the programs are largely beneficial to the groups that have them, I also understand why some farmers don’t like paying into them. Does "Got Milk" mean anything to you? What about soy diesel? Beef, it’s what I had for dinner. And tomorrow, I may have The Other White Meat.
But I digress. This is a slam on the political discourse in this country.
Comments to The Heritage Foundation blog included claims that this is further proof, in their minds anyway, that President Obama and the political left are out to eliminate Christmas. Others indicated that they were surprised President Obama even allowed it to be called a Christmas Tree tax, showing surprise that he didn’t call it a Holiday Tax.
Let’s get real about this. Granted, the story from the Heritage Foundation failed to mention that the checkoff program was requested by the industry association, The National Christmas Tree Association. But, saying the President is trying to raise tax revenue by taxing Christmas trees is beyond logic.
Before I get accused of defending the administration and the President, let me not pass on the opportunity to point out a few flaws on their part, too. Today the administration announced it would stop the implementation of the farmer-funded, farmer-requested checkoff program, due to political pressure.
The problems in this country go far beyond the now-delayed Christmas Tree Promotion, Research and Information Order. The discussion on this program and the resulting delay, however, clearly indicate we have an unrealistic political environment. The lack of leadership we see from all sectors of policy makers and administrators in Washington only exacerbates the issue. 
Perhaps it’s time we see less extremist attitudes from both parties, mixed in with some common sense and backbone from leaders in both political parties. Until that happens we won’t have a solution to our multi-trillion dollar debt, let alone a farmer-funded, farmer-requested checkoff program for Christmas trees.


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COMMENTS (3 Comments)

Bill Bayliss - West Mansfield, OH
Right on Greg. Logic is lacking and embelllishment of facts create news.
8:56 AM Nov 24th
Greg, you are right on this one. I blame the advent of political talk shows and the false notion that this is somehow news. And Over the course of the last several decades the rewards in this economy have been highly concentrated toward powerful organizations and resultant laziness as consumers and voters.
5:13 PM Nov 10th
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