The Department of Agriculture says although a regulation granting it the authority to place a fee on live Christmas trees recently went into effect, the agency and its partners in the Christmas Tree industry are not implementing the fee this year.
Over the weekend, Breitbart News reported on a federal government-supervised program to promote the sale of live Christmas trees. The initiative, which was proposed in 2011 and took effect in April, is to be “financed by an assessment on producers and importers of fresh cut Christmas trees and administered by a Board with oversight by AMS (Agricultural Marketing Service),” as USDA reported at the time.
Under this program, anyone who grows or imports more than 500 Christmas trees would be assessed a fee of 15 cents per tree. USDA insists the additional cost is not a “tax,” merely a fee that tree producers will have to pay.
“Like similar marketing programs requested by other agriculture industries, this program will be run by a board of Christmas tree industry representatives and funded exclusively with Christmas tree industry resources, not tax dollars. But the industry board has not been appointed yet and assessments will not be collected this year,” Cullen Schwarz, USDA spokesman, said.
Critics note the cost of the fee will simply be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. USDA estimates the fee would bring in approximately $2 million per year.