Saturday, July 16, 2011

Still Waiting...

The industry continues to await USDA's decision on a potential checkoff program. The proposed program was published November 8, 2010. The initial public comment period was scheduled to close on February 7, 2011 and was subsequently extended to March 8, 2011. The majority of public comments submitted and 17 out of 19 trade organizations that submitted comments support the order. It is still possible for a program to be in place to collect funds on trees sold this season -- to be used to promote Christmas tree sales in 2012, but action is needed soon.

Noteable comments include those by Christmas Tree Promotion Now! and the National Christmas Tree Association. Even the American Christmas Tree Association posted comments -- this is actually a fake association that has NO MEMBERS -- created by a fake tree company to promote fake trees over real ones. For more on that, check out the comments posted by Betty Malone.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Proposed Christmas Tree Checkoff Published

A "Proposed Christmas Tree Promotion, Research and Information Order" was published in the Federal Register on November 8. Everyone in the industry is encouraged to submit comments. You may express overall support or opposition, as well as note specific parts of the program that you would like to see modified.

The main points of the published proposal are the same as the indusry has been discussing over the last couple of years.

- The initial assessment would be 15 cents per tree sold or imported into the U.S.
- Those that produce or import fewer than 500 trees per year could apply for and receive an exemption. In other words, the smaller producers would not have to participate, but they could if they wanted to.
- The funds would be directed by a board of 12 Chrsitmas tree producers, nominated by the industry.

The proposed program does differ from previous drafts in a few ways. USDA added legal references, organized some sections differently, changed the periodic referendum from every 5 years to every 7, and they changed the crop and fiscal year dates.

USDA is seeking public comment through February 7. The comment period will be open through February 7 in order to allow sufficient time for the industry to read and comment on the proposal once the harvest/sales season is over. However, the Office of Management & Budget is required to review the estimates of the time that the program would require from producers and importers on a shorter timeframe than is being allowed for comments on the overall program. Those that would like to comment on this aspect should do so by December 8. Additional comments on the entire program can be filed later during the comment period.

For more information and to read the proposed progran in its entirety, visit the government docket at:

Note: There are two proposed rules on the docket. Both are related, but refer to separate aspects of this order. Comments submitted under one of the proposed rules will be understood to be about the entirety of the order.

To make a comment, you can click on the proposed order then click "submit comment" on the right side of the screen or follow this link:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Checkoff Group Goes to Washington DC

A team of 10 people from the Christmas tree industry met with five USDA officials in August to discuss a potential Checkoff program. The group asked that USDA consider a program that would include:
  • An assessment rate of 15 cents per harvested tree.
  • An exemption for anyone that sells less than 500 trees per year.
  • An exemption for anyone that imports less than 500 trees per year (USDA requires that importers be treated similarly to domestic producers, so our original request that there be no exemptions on imports was not possible.)
  • A delayed referendum, to take place within 3 years of the start of the program so the industry can see what the program is like before deciding whether to continue or not.
  • That each company subject to the assessment would have one vote in each referendum.

The 1996 Act, which is the legal authority for checkoff provides that:

  • The checkoff be governed by an independent board with representation proportionate to production.
  • 10% of the income would be set aside for a temporary refund program, which would available to those requesting refunds prior to a referendum passing. This amount would be prorated if refund requests exceed the 10% set aside.
  • If the initial referendum passes, a subsequent referendum would be held every 5 years.

USDA will consider the request and get back to the group.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Christmas Tree Checkoff Moving Forward

The Checkoff Study Task Force, after studying the industry and various checkoff programs for the last year, recommends asking USDA to consider a Checkoff program for the Christmas Tree industry that would include:
* Forming a new, independent Christmas Tree Promotion Board to direct the program, with board members being selected from multiple regions in proportion to the amount of production in each region.
* An assessment rate of 15 cents per harvested tree
* Exempting producers who harvest fewer than 500 trees per year
* Assessing imported trees, but also exempting those that import less than 500 trees
* Holding a referendum after three years to determine the continuation of the program, in which each producer subject to and complying with the assessment will be entitled to vote
* Subsequent referendums be held at least once every five years
* Allowing producers to request a refund of assessments collected prior to the first referendum.

After hearing feedback from members and many of the state and regional associations, NCTA's Board of Directors, during a conference call held March 10, voted to support a proposed Checkoff program as outlined.

The Checkoff Task Force will pursue working out remaining details with an attorney and USDA and continue to communicate with NCTA and state/regional associations. The recommendations of the task force are not final, and modifications may be required as the process unfolds. At some point, USDA will publish a proposed rule, followed by a 30 to 60 day comment period, during which all associations and individuals will be encouraged to send comments to USDA. More information will be provided as it becomes available.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Recent Article in "Beef Checkoff News"

Approval Of Beef Checkoff Slightly Lower
Still, Producers Recognize Underlying Program Strengths

Producers continue to have a favorable opinion about the Beef Checkoff Program, despite the current economic challenges facing the industry. A representative survey of 1,200 beef producers nationwide was conducted by an independent market research firm in late December and early January and found that 68 percent of producers approved of the checkoff, down from 72 percent a year ago.

“With negative market conditions we expected that overall approval might drop,” said Richard Nielson, an Ephraim, Utah, cow-calf producer and chairman of the Joint Producer Communications Committee. He said while the shift in approval is just outside the survey’s statistical margin of error of ±2.8 percent and is therefore ‘significant,’ the survey found that producers recognize the program has some key strengths and plays an important role in the cattle business.

Producers were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about the checkoff. A large majority, 83 percent, felt the checkoff program has helped contribute to a positive trend in consumer demand for beef. About the same number believed the program had value in weak economic conditions and were confident the checkoff is on their side during a crisis. When it comes to their own operation, producers largely said the program had benefited them. Approximately seven in 10 thought that over the years the beef checkoff helped contribute to the profitability of their operations. Management of the checkoff was viewed favorably as well. Nearly two-thirds, 64 percent, believed the checkoff program is being managed well.

“Producer approval of the checkoff has ranged from the mid-60 to the mid-70 percent range for more than a decade. As our researchers pointed out, the current economic situation certainly played a role in pulling approval lower. But we also know that approval is tied to how informed producers are about the program. Our challenge, therefore, remains to help producers get to know their program by providing many different information choices,” Nielson said. He noted that despite year-to-year cuts in the producer communications budget, his committee recommended an information program that includes paid ads in producer-read publications and on television, an online presence anchored by the Web site, work with agricultural editors and broadcasters on stories about the checkoff, and direct e-newsletters for beef and dairy producers.

“Our goal is to make learning about the beef checkoff as easy and as available as possible for producers everywhere,” Neilson said. A copy of the research report is available online.

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The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.

Monday, September 22, 2008

California Raisin Marketing Board Names New Exec VP

Ron Worthley, president/general manager of the California Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC) and the California Raisin Marketing Board (CRMB) has appointed Gary Schulz to the position of executive vice president of both organizations effective Sept. 8, 2008. Schulz is a fifth-generation farmer, managed Tulare's International Agri-Center for fifteen years, and, most recently, served as program director for the Central Valley Business Incubator while consulting for various economic development and political clients. Schulz will bring his experience to the California raisin industry, as it seeks a broader presence on the world agricultural stage.

Cattlemen's Beef Board Approves $42 Million Budget

The Beef Promotion Operating Committee this week approved spending the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) Fiscal Year 2009 program budget of $42 million on a total of 35 national checkoff programs. But it definitely was not an easy process, as committee members passionately debated proposals in an effort to find places to cut expenditures enough to meet decreasing revenue projections. Click here for additional information.