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  • Agricultural Marketing Fees: Not Just for Christmas Trees

    Yesterday, after word got out (via a post here on the Foundry) regarding new “mandatory fees” on Christmas trees imposed by the Obama Department of Agriculture (USDA), the White House moved quickly to suspend implementation of the new tax.

    The fees, which were supported by an industry group called the Christmas Tree Check-off Task Force, were earmarked for industry marketing efforts. USDA’s role was to make sure that all growers helped pay for those efforts, whether they supported them or not. Those growers, at least for now, have been given a reprieve. But the ill-starred Christmas tree tax was far from the only such mandatory marketing levy on agricultural products from popcorn and blueberries to mangos.

    These aren’t the only way Washington interferes with the agricultural marketplace, of course. Many commodities, from spearmint oil to milk are also subject to fees and price controls intended to limit supply and keep prices high, as has been documented by Heritage’s Diane Katz.

    But while perhaps less intrusive, the marketing assessments are far from harmless. They not only cost growers and consumers money, and skirt constitutional provisions that only Congress has the power to tax, but they also violate basic principles of free speech, making some producers pay to communicate messages against their will.

    Among the commodities subject to these fees:

    (Heritage interns John Russell and Luke Welch assisted in research for this post.)

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    20 Responses to Agricultural Marketing Fees: Not Just for Christmas Trees

    1. lights on says:

      Stop the abuse of governmental authority taxing basic necessities for basic human survival. Food, water and clothes. Advertisements are appropriately the businesses' cost, no need for government interference and their added costs. Please reform government ethics to ban basic necessities from all taxation. Stop their inhuman abuse of power.

    2. David Brunjes says:

      If you add up this list of fees, you get close to $250 million, or 1/4 of a billion, in fees that you and I are patying for. Here's an idea. Let's eliminate, yes, eliminate the USDA. Completely. We would save the $250 million, plus the expenses associated with the personnel, facilities, supplies, administration, etc… Got to be half a billion before you get all done. What do you think?

      • txbadonetoo says:

        But but but but – Obama signed an Executive Order to have ALL Agencies slim down on travel etc.. That should save us. And NO – didn't type that with a straight face!

      • glenn says:

        while I definitely agree with you (along with probably a dozen other federal agencies), I do think that the ensuing slam of unemployed federal workers would be a horrible burden in an already tense situation as it pertains to unemployment and the associated costs.

        • Bobbie says:

          hopefully they can use the skills tax payers were obligated to pay that they've developed and use with integrity (what lacks in most fed employment) and make an honest living in the private sector. I'm sure their intelligence will motivate their ability to figure things out for themselves. after all there's no excuse former feds couldn't find or create a job for themselves in the real world of real people? They should be the least of all Americans concern. the only "change" is accountability, what we all know decent people take it when it's their's.

        • JimL says:

          Glenn, these government workers produce nothing anyway and they are already subsisting on federal tax revenues. Government workers, like businesses, do NOT actually pay any taxes. They merely collect and redistribute the taxes from the private sector. So putting them out of irrelevant jobs and onto the unemployment lines, where they also produce nothign, is a zero sum game, except their unemployment benefits run out after a year. They can go out and take risks and produce wealth like the rest of us. You know … capitalism instead of communism.

    3. John says:

      The Supreme Court has already validated the constitutionality of the beef industry's check-off program in 2005. Not to mention that the Farm Bills of 1996 and 2002 (both under Republican Houses) addressed the forced commercial speech issues. This program was initiated by American tree growers to take advantage of laws enacted by Republicans in Congress who gave the USDA the power to enact them. Does anyone at the Heritage Foundation ever do any research before they start typing?

      The bigger question is, "who does killing this program help and hurt?" Well, killing this program hurts American Christmas tree growers and it helps foreign artificial tree makers and the corporations, like Wal-mart, who sell them. We all know for whom the Heritage Foundation works. Four years of hard work by American tree farmers who had banded together to get this program off the ground for their industry was simply wiped away by the Heritage Foundation with 5 minutes of blogging. Congratulations on hurting America.

      • ChristmasTreeGrower says:

        Sorry John but if you would have done your research you would have discovered that when these messages were attributed as Industries message to the public they were declared Unconstitutional by numerous courts throughout the land, including the Supreme Court in 2001 because they violated an individual's First Amendment rights by forcing them to pay for speech for which they might not agree. The 2005 Supreme Court Decision you reference is the one where the USDA decided the only way to keep these programs was to declare them "government speech" thus in effect nullifying an individuals First Amendment Rights and the Supreme Court went right along with this farce. If you actually would have bothered to read the Opinion of the Court you would have found that several of the Justices didn't actually buy off on the "government speech" farce but they liked the outcome, so they went along with it. Who would have ever imagined in this once free country that we would have official government speech promotions like "Got Milk", "Beef It's Whats for Dinner", and "Pork the Other White Meat".

      • Elizabeth says:

        If you would check it out John, the large growers wanted the program not the small growers. Talk to some of them and see how they feel. I'm against all fees and taxes on food that the Agriculture deems necessary. Don't we already pay enough.

    4. John says:

      Anyone interested in who might have enacted such legislation which orders the USDA to enact these programs under rules created by Congress? Anyone? Probably silly of me to think that Heritage will post the names of those who have voted, multiple times, FOR this program.

      But, here are some links which are a bit telling as to who wanted these programs… yet now they are playing the "blame Obama" game for votes they made?
      House Vote: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/vote.xpd?vote=h19
      Senate Vote: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/vote.xpd?vote=s19

    5. Jim says:

      The amount of the tax and subject of it isn't the most relevant thing here. It's that Obama can apparently do these things on nothing but his own say so that's the bigger problem. If Obama can arbitrarily impose taxes and regulations then he's nothing but an elected dictator, by definition.

      Not that Obama was the first to do this kind of stuff.

    6. Lee Burns says:

      Oh yes, there are a multitude of savings the "super committee" can recommend but probably won't due to constituent pressure and implementation of such actions all have downstream consequences. Someone always "hurts" but in order to get our house in order, it's time we all "hurt" a little. But this isn't the type of "fair share" our President is talking about. He ought to be and so should all our legislators.
      On this Veterans Day I'm reminded of the "sharing" we all did during WWII, from Rosie the Riveter to Victory gardens and "rationing" to the men and women of the armed forces including the Merchant Marines.
      We are under a differet kind of attack now and need to address it as wholeheartedly as we did then.
      It's time we ALL share, folks. Come on, join up.

    7. Amber says:

      Do we forget that our country was actually built on agriculture? The USDA is in place to support farmers. These checkoff programs, paid for by the farmers themselves, benefit the respective industries entirely. Did you know we can thank the cotton checkoff for the research that led to permanent press cotton fabric? Don't write these programs off until you actually inform yourself of all the actual benefits they afford you and me.

    8. Lynne says:

      Both parties have done bad things for this country, why not stop pointing fingers and work to the best end to stop this overreaching government, put common sense back in. We all know that our government is out of controll and most in congress are criminals and theives and it just doesn't matter which side of the isle they sit.

    9. Maxwell says:

      Oh John……. Youre missing the point, this is a first amendment issue, what do you do for a living? Tell us about your research, and how you came up with your conclusions that Heritage is off base? This is a very straight forward PROBLEM that clearly hurts Americans, the federal government is to big, this is not a republican or a democrat issue, this is a common sense issue.

    10. DramaMama says:

      Are there other ways to stimulate the market of these industries besides using government funds for advertising and public service announcements? Most of these products are staples that will be consumed whether they are advertised or not. As the one responsible for purchasing food for my family, I have to say that all of the above listed food products have greatly increased in the past few years; more than doubling my food budget. Give these industries a break so they can provide lower cost, better value, and hopefully higher quality product to consumers.

    11. jpbwnc says:

      what is wrong with the industry paying their own expenses without any public monies? what a concept!

    12. jpbwnc says:

      this was all passed by all republicans but it belongs to obama? one thing you fools do good is twist things around. are you all dyslecsic or the result of ''no lie left behind?

    13. Harry says:

      The department of agriculture is an unconstitutional entity. It was started by FDR to pay farmers not to produce most agriculture products because of the world trade war which was started by the Smut, Holley
      tariff act. This placed a 53 percent tariff on a large number of goods entering this country. The nations who traded with us retaliated. Every time the government interferes in the free market it grabs

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