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Farm bill to have effect on floriculture programs

The Agricultural Act of 2014, the farm bill, will affect the nation’s Christmas tree growers in addition to other floriculture programs.

President Obama signed the bill Feb. 7, creating a check-off program to fund a national Christmas tree promotional board. A provision in the bill adds a 15-cent surcharge on the cost of each tree sold by larger farms. This money will go into a specific program for research and marketing of live trees. It is similar to other check-off programs that led to promotional campaigns including those tagged with “The incredible edible egg” and “Got milk?” slogans.

Jennifer Greene of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association said the program can help growers combat the influx of artificial trees, according to a report from WBTV in Charlotte, NC.

“It is estimated that the assessment can raise $3 million a year for promotion,” she said. “We want to promote the American farmer and American products like the live trees.”

Although the legislation passed in Congress, there remain opponents who maintain that it is a tax on unwilling Christmas tree farmers that could be passed down to consumers.

Additional aspects of the bill affect floriculture as well.

The bill provides $80 million annually for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, an increase from the previous level of $50 million, with new provisions providing for increased industry participation in review of research proposals to ensure that industry priorities are addressed.

Specialty Crop Block Grant funding was increased from $50 million per year to $72.5 million per year for the next four years, and to $85 million per year in 2018. Block grants have provided funding for important state initiatives to increase flower and plant promotion in states including Hawaii, Alaska, California, Texas and Michigan.