March 2018 – The Latest News and Information from the National Christmas Tree Association
Congress Passes Massive Omnibus Spending Bill
By Craig Regelbrugge
Congress hastily passed a $1.3 trillion mandatory spending bill with hours to spare early Friday morning, March 23, moving the omnibus spending bill through the House and Senate in a little over 24 hours. The sweeping measure had first passed the House 2 56 to 167, and the Senate, 65- 32.
The bill funds the government through September and attracted bipartisan support, with conservatives complaining about deficits and lack of time to review the over 2,000-page piece of legislation. Republicans were quick to highlight the $80 billion increase in defense while Democrats focused on $63 billion of additional domestic spending.
Of interest in the bill is Department of Agriculture funding, totaling $146 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding. $2.75 billion was allotted to support agricultural research conducted by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and land grant and non- land grant universities. This is good news for research and development programs benefiting Christmas trees and other specialty crops.
$985 million was allocated for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which was $172 million above the Administration’s budget request and $35.7 million above the FY2017 enacted level. This funding will continue programs to prevent, control and eradicate plant pests and diseases affecting specialty crops, among areas of focus.
Despite much “on again, off again” speculation, the bill failed to significantly address
immigration policy, notably a deal making major border security investments in exchange for a solution for recipients of the “deferred action for childhood arrivals” program. The bill did include limited language authorizing the Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Department of Labor, to approve additional H-2B visas. A full-court press now turns attention to the agencies.
Despite last-moment veto threats about DACA and border wall funding, President Trump signed the bill into law on Friday afternoon. Congress now goes on spring recess and will not return until April 9.
This could potentially be the last large legislative vehicle for the year given the fractious political environment and November’s midterm elections. Of course, 2018 is supposed to be the year for the Farm Bill to be reauthorized, but a sharp partisan split over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (more commonly known as food stamps) has threatened to derail near-term progress there. Stay tuned…
Keep It Real- Vote YES Referendum Committee Launches Website
An organization of Christmas tree producers from around the US recently launched a website to provide information about the upcoming referendum vote for the continuation of the Christmas Tree Promotion Board. This group is encouraging qualified growers to vote yes on the referendum.
“I so appreciate all the growers who have helped with the website with pictures, stories, letters and quotes,” comments Betty Malone of Sunrise Tree Farm. “Hundreds of growers worked hard to bring this program to life. We’d all like to see it continue. Vote yes!”
According to the USDA, the referendum vote will take place during the month of May. Growers who
harvested and sold 500 or more Christmas trees in 2017 and reported and paid assessments on their
2017 harvest will receive a ballot from USDA. Ballots will be due back to USDA by May 31, 2018.
Interested in learning more about how to support the “Yes” vote for the CTPB Referendum? Please visit: keepitrealvoteyes.org
Educating Consumers on Modern Agricultural Practices
By Ron Goldy, Michigan State University Extension
Editors Note: This article popped up in my newsfeed recently and it reminded me that consumers are fascinated with how we grow, harvest and deliver millions of Christmas trees each year. Two great Christmas tree industry videos immediately came to my mind:
Harvesting One Million Christmas Trees by Helicopter: Watch here
Seedling Story: Watch here
At one time, 90 percent of the United States population was directly involved in some form of agricultural production activity. Many early U.S. presidents, for example, were either farmers or grew up on farms. However, today less than 2 percent of the U.S. population is directly involved in farming, resulting in a population with little idea how their food is produced and makes it to their table.
While consumers are often unfamiliar with what it takes to get food to the grocery store, there is evidence people are interested in where their food comes from. For example, a casual YouTube search yields all kinds of videos with all kinds of views on agriculture, with topics ranging the spectrum of production (with many equipment videos). This shows there is interest in agriculture from consumers, creating opportunities for the 2 percent involved in agriculture to educate the rest of the population.
With this in mind, Michigan State University Extension began producing a series of
“farm to fork” videos. The main goal is to provide consumers with concise, fast-paced videos that are educational and entertaining, and will introduce them to modern food production practices. The first two are Michigan Pickles are the Real Dill and Michigan Cherries: Shaken, Not Stirred.
The series will grow over time with videos on flower and juice grape production planned for 2018.
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension.
For more information, visit www.msue.msu.edu
The Spring/Summer issue of the American Christmas Tree Journal is coming in April – NCTA members should watch for their copy!
Have Your Renewed Your NCTA Membership?
It’s time to renew your NCTA membership for 2018! To open a 2018 membership form: Click this link!
For a complete list of NCTA Board members and contact information, please click here.
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