Featured Produce News

U.S. Christmas Tree Industry at a Glance

December 03, 2015

Christmas Tree Harvest Techniques, Statistics and Reports  

 

 
2012 Crop Year, Christmas

Value

$ 305.5 million

Production

17.3 million trees

Bearing Acres

309,365

Data Source: FAS, USDA; NASS, USDA

About Christmas Trees

Christmas trees were used to celebrate the winter season even before Christ’s birth; however, decorating one was first done in Latvia in 1510. Lighting the tree with candles became common about a hundred years later and in 1882 when Edward Johnson, assistant to Thomas Edison, came up with the idea to use electricity to light the trees.

People started getting trees from the mountains at around 1850 and during the 1900s began growing them on farms, with the first tree farm being planted in 1901 in New Jersey.

Christmas Tree Production

Christmas trees grow well in mild climates with well-drained soil, taking seven to ten years to grow a typical eight foot tree. Today, Oregon and North Carolina are by far the largest producers of Christmas trees. Recently, more people have enjoyed cutting down their own tree at the tree farm, while some even go into the mountains with their pick-up to find a (normally worse-looking) tree. Real trees have competed with artificial trees since the 1930’s, when a toilet brush company started dying their brush material green to sell as Christmas trees!

 

2012/13 Major Players in Apple Market Click on U.S. Christmas Tree Acreage Graph to Enlarge.
Prepared by FPP using data from NASS, USDA.

 

2012/13 Major Players in Apple Market Click on U.S. Christmas Tree Graph to enlarge.
Source: NASS, USDA.

 

Christmas tree farmers keep busy all year. The Wadsworth Christmas Tree Farm in Alabama is an example. As early as January they are paying bills and doing taxes, and in February they get the seedlings that need major spraying and shearing through August. They say that shearing is a bit like sculpting, except they don’t see the result until after the fact. During August they attend Christmas tree association meetings, some of which are discussed in the next section. In September they prepare for October greening (a type of paint that keeps the tree green) and in November the marketing begins.

Despite the seasonal purchases of Christmas trees, Christmas tree farmers are thinking about those trees all year.

Christmas Tree Trade

Real (and artificial) Christmas trees enter the US duty-free, but still it is unlikely that very many trees are imported due to their size and water needs.  Due to the low number of international Christmas tree trade, there is not a lot of data available.

Christmas Tree Trade Associations, and Programs

The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) is the national trade association representing the Christmas tree industry. NCTA represents more than 700 active member farms, 29 state and regional associations, and more than 4,000 affiliated businesses that grow and sell Christmas trees or provide related supplies and services. Members are located throughout North America, as well as in South America and Europe. It is estimated that those affiliated with the NCTA produce roughly three-quarters of the farm-raised Christmas trees in the United States.  The NCTA was the largest supporter of the Christmas Tree Research and Promotion Program.

The National Christmas Tree Promotion Board is the administrative body that operates the Christmas Tree Research and Promotion Program.  The program was established in 2014.  This program allows Christmas tree producers to jointly fund research and market their products.  It is a relatively new program that has not yet been fully implemented.  An assessment on producers and importers of fresh cut Christmas trees will finance the program, which will be administered by the Christmas Tree Promotion Board, under AMS oversight, once the Board’s membership is established.  The initial assessment rate will be $0.15 per Christmas tree cut and sold domestically or imported into the United States.  The board for this program consists of eleven Christmas tree growers and one importer.

The Christmas Tree Tax
The mandatory fee collected to fund the Christmas Tree Research and Promotion Program has been controversial. For example, The Heritage Foundation views it as a tax on consumers, and believes that Christmas trees do not need special promotion over other commodities. If the program was truly needed, according to The Heritage Foundation, then growers would be willing to provide the funds without government coercion. When the program was first proposed in 2011, backlash from The Heritage Foundation and others caused the program to be suspended, but the 2014 Farm Bill mandated that the order be implemented.

The Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association (PNWCTA) is made up of Oregon and Washington. This organization brings together people in the industry for their mutual and public benefit, sponsors education to help people understand their industry, does research, practices environmental stewardship and improves marketing procedures. An interesting feature on their website is its demonstration of a real tree’s superiority over a fake tree.

The North Carolina Christmas Tree Association (NCCTA) is has similar interests to those mentioned for the PNWCTA. It also has a focus on Choose ‘N’ Cut farms and lobbying for legislation that is beneficial to the industry. Both the PNCTA and the NCCTA have voluntary membership.

A Christmas Tree for D.C.

Since the 1960s, there has been a tradition of putting a large Christmas tree on Capitol Hill. This year’s tree, a Lutz Spruce, just arrived from the Chugach National Forest in Alaska. It is the first time that the Capitol Christmas Tree has not come from the contiguous United States, and traveling so far was quite the feat. It is typical for community trees such as this one to be funded by non-tax-payer funds. Fuel for the truck moving the tree has been provided by Shell Oil, and Alaska Airlines transported more than 4,000 handmade ornaments. The truck’s driver was chosen for his safe driving record, and it so happens that people think he looks a lot like Santa Clause.

To see an article in the Wall Street Journal, click here.

 

For more information about Christmas trees, see:

 

 

The Federal Register

Crop Profiles, Harvesting and Trade

Agency and Congressional Hearings

Congressional Legislation

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