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Agricultural Marketing Fees: Not Just for Christmas Trees

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Unread 11.10.11, 06:09 PM
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Agricultural Marketing Fees: Not Just for Christmas Trees

On 11.10.11 12:37 PM posted by James Gattuso

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.)

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