No, seriously. Barack Obama is such a freak for taxing your ass off that he has imposed a Christmas tree tax this year. Those danged Democrats! Those guys will tax anything.
Executive Director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association Marsha Gray says most Christmas Tree operations are small farmers. “When we have so many different individual farmers it’s difficult for them on their own to executive an effective ad campaign.” Gray says there’s no exact count, but estimates there are between 600 and 700 growers. Only about half of those harvest more than 500 trees per year.
Gray and others turned to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for help in marketing real trees a few years ago. Industry leaders wanted to see if a majority of growers would chip in for a national advertising campaign – called check-off programs.
There’s already about 20 other commodities with USDA marketing programs. The first national campaign started in 1966 for cotton. Farmers pay $1 a bale towards “the fabric of our lives” cotton ads. These fees add up to more than 70 million dollars a year. And cotton growers get bang for their buck; $8 in return for every $1 they invest. There are the celebrities with “got milk?” moustaches (raises about $90 million). There’s “Beef – it’s what’s for dinner” (raises about $80 million). There’s “the incredible edible egg” (raises $18 million).
Stay with me. This gets better.
About 70% of Christmas Tree growers were in favor of the fees. So on November 8th the USDA made the program official. Growers who sold more than 500 trees would pay 15-20 cents per tree to fund the campaign. The hope was to raise during this season closer to what the blueberry, mango or watermelon board raises a year; somewhere between $2 million and $4 million.
Michigan grower Matt Horrocks guesses he’ll harvest 1,000 trees this year, so that would cost him $150. “It’s a drop in the barrel,” Horrocks’ shrugged “It’s not that big of a deal.”
But politics quickly turned it into a big deal. Within hours of the program’s approval, the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation branded it Obama’s “New Christmas Tree Tax.” Over the next few days some mainstream news outlets repeated that slogan.
Shorter version: the Christmas tree growers got the USDA to administer a program where growers which chip in $0.15-0.20 per tree for a national media blitz that would help all of them. And then the loathesome Heritage Foundation called it Obama’s Christmas tree tax.
So they stopped it. It’s screwing over Michigan Christmas tree growers right at a time when a big media push would have helped them but the conservatives are so ready to vilify the President that such trivial details as actual living, breathing small business people getting hurt is of no concern.
Cross-posted from Eclectablog. Graphic by Eclectablog.