It seems Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler inadvertently ruffled the branches of Christmas tree growers in Oregon with his recent declaration that North Carolina ranks No. 1 in cash receipts of Christmas trees nationally.

It was at a ceremony in Laurel Springs, celebrating the send-off of the White House Christmas tree grown by Joe Freeman and Linda Jones of Mistletoe Meadows farm, that Troxler announced the new ranking.

It was Troxler’s opinion that North Carolina has exceeded Oregon as the leading Christmas tree state in the nation, based on cash receipts, not production, that caused him to proclaim, “We are the Christmas tree state in the nation.”

Someone in Oregon apparently was reading the Jefferson Post, an Ashe County newspaper that covered the event, which prompted a follow-up call from an Oregon reporter.

Troxler stands by the figures that are part of the National Agricultural Statistics Service data, which reports North Carolina’s cash receipts for 2006 at $134 million and Oregon’s at $121 million. The NASS data ranks Oregon No. 1 in Christmas tree production.

Troxler has heard that some tree growers in Oregon thought he’d had too much egg nog, but thinks the good-natured debate about the rankings gives both states an opportunity to promote real trees. “Growers in North Carolina and Oregon recognize the real competition is not with each other, but the plastic trees imported from other parts of the world,” Troxler said, adding that real trees offer many benefits including oxygen production and pleasing aromas.

“Try as you might, you just can’t capture the scent of a freshly cut Fraser fir in a spray bottle,” Troxler said. North Carolina is home to some 50 million Christmas trees produced by more than 1,500 growers, Troxler said. “The state also has 400 choose and cut tree farms, making it convenient for shoppers to personally select their own fresh tree. In addition, North Carolina Christmas trees can be found at farmers markets and roadside stands statewide.”

To find a choose and cut Christmas tree location, go to www.ncfarmfresh.com.