In an attempt to address the fallout to all checkoff programs from the unfair and erroneous characterization of a proposed Christmas tree research and promotion program as a "Christmas tree tax," the American Soybean Association (ASA) and 19 other agricultural groups that represent producers who also participate in checkoff programs have sent a letter to Congress and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack reiterating their support for these programs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has indefinitely pulled the Christmas tree growers’ proposal for the creation of an industry-funded 15-cents-per-tree research and promotion program, which was sought by growers of more than 500 trees a year, after a blog post calling it the "Christmas Tree Tax" spread quickly throughout the Internet and into mainstream newspapers and television news outlets.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jim DeMint(R-S.C.) introduced an amendment to the Energy and Water appropriations bill to terminate all research and promotion programs, and legislation to prohibit the Christmas tree checkoff also has been proposed in the House.

"Recent distorted media attacks and ill-conceived legislative proposals ignore how these programs are established and approved in referenda by producers who fund the programs with their own money," the letter states.

"With oversight provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, producers have taken it upon themselves to fund over $905 million of research, promotion and consumer education programs annually through checkoff activities at no cost to the federal government.

“In these austere budgetary times, our producers should be commended and certainly deserve the support of the authorizing committees and USDA."

Read the full text of the letter.

Cotton growers are happy with their checkoff program. You can read about that here http://southeastfarmpress.com/cotton/study-cotton-check-shows-big-benefits. And here's what Farm Press' Elton Robinson thinks about Jim DeMint's actions http://southeastfarmpress.com/blog/demint-s-amendment-repeal-check-offs-he-serious.