Farm Bill affects NC Christmas tree growers

Published: Feb. 4, 2014 at 10:49 PM EST|Updated: Jul. 14, 2016 at 2:11 AM EDT
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NEWLAND, NC (WBTV) - The controversial Farm Bill, passed by the U.S. Senate and headed to President Obama's desk for his signature, cuts some subsidies and some food stamps, but also has provisions that affect specific farmers, such as Christmas tree growers.

What's been called a "Check-off" program will mean an assessment of 15 cents per tree sold, if the president makes the bill law.

The 15 cents is designed to raise millions of dollars every year to go into a specific program of research and marketing for live trees. It is similar to other "Check-off" programs for other products that led to such slogans as "The incredible edible egg," and "Got Milk" and others.

Jennifer Greene of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association thinks the program can help growers combat the influx of artificial trees.

"It is estimated that the assessment can raise 3 million dollars a year for promotion," said Greene at her office in Boone on Tuesday. "We want to promote the American Farmer and American products like the live trees."

Any marketing program through the Farm Bill setup would not specifically market North Carolina trees. The program would push trees nationwide.

"I have mixed feelings about it all," said grower Clay Cutherbertson in Crossnore.

Cuthbertson said he is wary of the federal government getting too involved in private enterprise. He said he and other growers will pay the assessment and watch carefully how it is spent.

"I'm hoping it will work," he said.

Cutherbertson said the increased sales of artificial trees has had an effect on farmers and believes something does need to be done.

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