Farmers Against Christmas Tree Tax

farmers against christmas tree taxation

We are Christmas tree farmers who want to eliminate the Tree Tax

SHOULD YOU VOTE TO CONTINUE THE CHRISTMAS TREE PROMOTION BOARD IN 2018?

Vote to eliminate the CTPB for good and stop paying a tax which you never approved to begin with

To help eliminate the tax, please donate

Last year Christmas tree growers paid $1.65 million to the Christmas Tree Promotion Board (CTPB) for zero return on their investment.  We, as tree farmers, did not have a chance to vote on the establishment of the CTPB or the tax that we pay to support it when it was set up in 2015.

But this year, we will have the chance to vote on the continuation of the Board and this tax on our sales of trees. I have started the FARMERS AGAINST CHRISTMAS TREE TAXATION (FACTTS) to inform you, my colleagues in the Christmas tree growing business, of the futility and the waste of the CTPB efforts, and why I think you should vote against continuing the CTPB and its tax on Christmas trees.

The CTPB was established in January 2015. If you sold more than 500 trees during the 2016 and/or 2017 season you have, or should have, paid the CTPB a tax of $0.15 per tree to support its activities. This tax can be increased at any time by the CTPB to $0.20 and the number of trees you sell to have to pay the tax can change. THE BOTTOM LINE QUESTION IS:

The CTPB has done some interesting things during the past two seasons.

In 2016 it hired three people with Christmas trees on their back to walk in the New York City Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade down Madison Avenue and it installed a talking Christmas tree in New York City. In

2017 the CTPB featured the stories of 7 Christmas tree farms in 5 states which it made available to the media. Representatives also participated in a number of TV news panels. Altogether the CTPB claims to have made 230 million impressions during the 2017 season at a cost of $1.65 million to us. You can watch a video about its activities here:

This is all very nice, but the question for us as tree farmers is: do 230 million impressions (whatever that means) actually sell more Christmas trees? Nationally we sell about 28.3 million trees a year (average from 2007-2016). That number is relatively stable, but does go up and down about 15% depending on the state of the economy (maximum 33 million in 2013, minimum 24.5 million in 2012). We have seen an increase from 25.9 million trees sold in 2015 to 27.4 million trees in 2016 the first year when the CTPB was active. However artificial trees which have no organizational budget to promote national sales increased from 12.5 million trees to 18.6 million trees during the same period. Generally speaking sales of artificial trees are subject to the same forces as sales of real trees i.e. when the economy improves sales of all trees increase regardless of the dollars spent on national campaigns.

In addition, when I ask our clients (about 5,000 individuals in 2017) whether they have heard about any of the CTPB ads or activities, they uniformly reply with a quizzical look: what are you talking about?

My clients are totally unaware of the CTPB campaign and I bet your clients will profess similar unawareness if you ask them.

CAN WE EVEN REASONABLY EXPECT THAT THE CTPB CAMPAIGN OR ANY PROMOTIONAL CAMPAIGN WILL CAUSE AN INCREASE IN THE SALE OF REAL CHRISTMAS TREES? LET US EXPLORE THAT QUESTION.

THE PURPOSE OF NATIONAL MARKETING AND SALES CAMPAIGNS IS to increase awareness of a product and of the occasion when someone might use that product. Think about Valentines day: cards, flowers, heart shaped boxes with candy, fancy dinners, romantic getaways, etc.  We have one product, real trees. Can we reasonably expect to make the American public more aware of Christmas trees (the product) and the Christmas season (the occasion for the products use) with a $1.65 million dollar effort of which $800,000 is spent on a marketing campaign the other half is spend on various administrative expenses with $200,000 paid to USDA for supervision and start up fees? Nowadays, starting in September and October the public is inundated with reminders that Christmas is around the corner. You cannot escape the Christmas feeling no matter what you do or where you are. There may be some tree clients who are aware of the marketing efforts of the CTPB and find them creative and funny. But does the CTPB promotion campaign make them more aware of our product and the occasion to use our product? It is hard to imagine. Our clients are already fully aware of Christmas and Christmas trees without the CTPB doing a thing.

OF COURSE, WE FACE COMPETITION FROM ARTIFICIAL CHRISTMAS TREES. The CTPB spends a lot of effort trying to make a real tree more desirable than an artificial tree. The CTPBs three themes are: the real tree is made in America, is environmentally friendlier, and keeps American farmers in business. I have been a Christmas tree farmer for 38 years.

Typically, I lose some clients when they get older and their kids leave home, and I get new, younger clients when they start having children.

But I have many older, repeat clients who also have an artificial tree in their attic or basement. They usually buy an artificial tree when the kids have left home and it is just the two of them. When the kids come home or they have a Christmas party for friends and neighbors, or the grandchildren come over, they come back to buy a real tree. Can we change this pattern of behavior substantially in favor of more real trees with a national advertising campaign? I think you know the answer:very unlikely.

Marketing and advertising for Christmas trees is not about impressions or entertaining audiences with fun videos. As farmers we are more hard-nosed than that. We want to see that our dollars get us more sales. As a choose-and- cut farmer I spend about $1.50 in marketing per tree. Based on my marketing budget, I would expect that the budget of the CTPB of 2016 and 2017 would have increased national sales by about one million trees in each of its two years of operation. We cannot attribute anything close to that to CTPBs campaign. Sales have been good in the last two years, but we can thank the economy for that. With the roughly $300+ I have paid the CTPB in the last two years I could have increased my sales by 200 trees in each of those years. Since none of my clients acknowledged ever having heard about the CTPB campaign, it is safe to assert that none of my sales increases can be credited to the CTPB.

This year you can vote to eliminate the CTPB for good and stop paying a tax which you never approved to begin with. If you sold more than 500 Christmas trees in 2016 and/or 2017, you will be contacted probably in May by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and given an opportunity to vote in the expected referendum. Please do not ignore their approach but VOTE. If you agree with me, please send this e-mail to every one of your colleagues in the Christmas tree growing business and urge them to join us in opposing the continuation of the CTPB and its tax. I shall continue to work on the issue and keep you informed as more news becomes available.

Frans J Kok, President, Middleburg Tree Farm, Inc., P.O. Box 423, Philomont, VA 20131

VICTORIA CARPENTER VictoriaM..gov USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service, Specialty Crops Program Promotion and Economics Division 1400 Independence Ave., SW 1406.23 Washington, DC 20250 Office: Mobile: Reception: 202 720 9915 Fax: […]

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