By Tim O’Connor
I know some confusion exists about what the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) and the Christmas Tree Promotion Board (CTPB) each do, why the industry needs both organizations, and the importance of funding NCTA now that growers are required to pay into the checkoff program. These questions are not unique to the Christmas tree industry. In my career I have worked for five other agricultural organizations in industries that have both a trade association and a checkoff program; the same questions exist in those industries and, in all sectors of agriculture. It is highly important for Christmas tree growers to understand the differences between NCTA and CTPB and the importance of both organizations.
NCTA fills a unique and critical role as the advocacy organization for the Christmas Tree Industry; it represents the industry in public policy/governmental affairs advancing positions that support the industry and defending against legislation and regulations that could negatively affect the industry. CTPB is expressly prohibited from conducting any public policy activities by its USDA oversight regulations. If NCTA were not acting on your behalf in public policy matters you would simply be helpless on the sidelines as key issues of importance to the industry were in play.
For example, a few of the issues NCTA advances and defends as industry priorities are:
- Maintaining IRS Designation that Christmas tree production is classified as lumber and therefore taxed at capital gains rates.
- Ensuring Christmas tree production retains its agricultural status and associated overtime wage payment exemptions.
- Positively influence fire codes to protect opportunities for real trees.
- Providing the White House Christmas tree each year.
CTPB can’t work on these vital industry advocacy matters because it is a checkoff program. All checkoff programs are prohibited from funding public policy advocacy initiatives because their revenue comes from a government mandated assessment. NCTA, on the other hand, is funded by members’ dues payments, sponsorships, state TIP fund investments and advertising from its publications. NCTA can undertake public policy advocacy work because it’s funding is derived through these voluntary contributions from the industry.
CTPB’s mission is to conduct promotion, education and research programs to increase demand for real Christmas trees. The industry has seen significant erosion in demand for real Christmas trees as many consumers have found artificial trees to be “easier” to use. Reversing this demand loss will require a sustained promotion and education program, which is now possible with the resources available through the checkoff managed by CTPB.
To build long-term sustained demand it is highly important that we connect real Christmas trees with young Millennial families as they are beginning to form their own family traditions. The Millennial generation is the largest in US history, even larger than the Baby Boomer generation; they are about one-fourth of the US population and have $2.5 trillion in purchasing power. They are the best-educated cohort of young adults in US history and are the first generation of digital natives utilizing technology and social media to make most of their purchasing decisions. CTPB’s marketing campaign prioritizes Millennial families as its core target because of the long-term importance of not losing these consumers for the future.
Having worked for both trade associations and checkoff programs I know the value the industry receives from each organization delivering results that matter to advance the industry. To be successful you need NCTA representing your interests as your advocate and CTPB building demand for your products. It is not helpful to the industry if growers make the decision because they are required to pay an assessment to one organization they will no longer voluntarily pay to support the other.
CTPB is launching its first consumer ad campaign for the 2016 Christmas season. It will be exciting and we encourage the whole industry to utilize the campaign to extend its reach to consumers and ability to build demand.
NCTA is going through a transition to be more focused and more effective. There have been some disconnects between growers and NCTA in the past; but that was the past. This is a new future for NCTA, a future that seeks to be more connected with the industry.
Let’s move forward together to make the Christmas tree industry stronger by supporting both NCTA and CTPB to accomplish their missions.