This year, 96% of artificial Christmas trees in the U.S. are expected to come from China. A 15-cent per tree tax on fresh trees imposed by the Department of Agriculture and intended to help fund promotion of the home-grown industry, was rescinded by the Obama Administration, but not everyone is happy yet. Joshua Green reports for Bloomberg:
The National Christmas Tree Association had actually requested the fee in order to fund an intensified marketing campaign to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States.” Per the Federal Registry (via ABC News), the NCTA had in mind a “program of promotion, research, evaluation and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expend existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry.”
I confess to having read about this at the time and wondered, “Why on earth do Christmas trees need a promotional campaign? What’s impinging on their market share, Hanukkah?”
It turns out the correct answer is: China. Specifically, China’s cheap, fake Christmas trees, which are increasingly threatening our own authentic, domestic-grown trees and the patriotic Americans who labor to supply them.
According to the Washington Post’s On Faith blog, the fee was intended to promote fresh, domestically-grown trees over imported artificial ones:
The Christmas Tree Promotion Board will take the fee, charged to tree importers and producers and run a campaign (similar to the Got Milk? ads) to promote the merits of fresh-cut trees to the public. In an interview with Fox News, Agriculture Department spokesman Michael T. Jarvis “insisted the fee does not count as a tax, since the industry is effectively ‘assessing themselves.’” The fresh-tree industry has been hurt by the growing popularity of artificial trees.
See also an AFP report on the fee and how it was misinterpreted by some conservative media in the U.S.