15 cent Christmas tree fee sparks outrage

MINERAL, VA (WWBT) - Christmas trees - a household phrase! That's the goal behind a 15 cent tree marketing fee for growers. Even though the fee was just approved by the USDA, public outrage has prompted the White House to put a hold on it.

The majority of growers nationwide want the fee to generate more money for marketing their product. 15 cents per tree! One small grower in Virginia worries it might put her out of business. Our Facebook fans think it's a crazy idea.

Got a fresh cut Christmas tree? You might just hear that while channel surfing next holiday season should a new federal marketing program move forward.

"I think it's going to make more of a Christmas tree a household word. It'll make people think of buying a fresh tree rather than an artificial tree," said John Carroll with Claybrooke Farm in Mineral.

Under a USDA approved program, growers would face a 15 cent fee per tree cut and sold or imported. Farms that sell more than 500 trees a year would be impacted. It's part of a federal check-off promotional program which is behind the ads for milk, beef and the other white meat!

We asked our NBC12 Facebook fans what they thought about it.

One man posted: "Cuz we all know that fresh-cut Christmas trees have a poor self-image."

A woman replied: "What the. World getting crazier every day."

Another woman wrote: "The stupidest thing I have ever heard in my entire life!"

One man posted: "C'mon people ya spend 30 to 50 on a tree, what's 15 cents more?"

Carroll said it's not an image problem, growers need the promotional dollars.

"Right now it's voluntary so we're really promoting the project with less than half a million dollars," said Carroll.

Carroll believes the fee would generate two million dollars a year to help sell fresh cut trees.

"It's a great product that's renewable it's eco-friendly," said Carroll.

His trees are already tagged for sale. One is going for $30 and Carroll said you won't see an extra 15 cents tacked on.

"We just see the value of the promotional dollars certainly if we can't afford to absorb that 15 cents per tree there's something wrong," said Carroll.

Carroll said growers that cut and sell fewer than 500 trees a year would be exempt along with organic growers.

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