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.