Why does the Right want to destroy family farms?

The USDA helps American agriculture.  That’s part of their job.  One very successful way they do this is by administering promotional programs for such groups as cotton growers, egg producers and pig farmers, to help promote their products.  These advertising and promotional programs are voluntary; the industry requests the program, and then negotiates with the government how much its members will pay.  Which brings us to the second major point:  they pay for themselves, and don’t cost taxpayers a dime.  And a third major point is that these programs have been extraordinarily successful.

American Christmas tree growers have been losing market share to artificial trees in recent years.  Most tree growers are small, family farms, so it’s difficult for any single grower to do much promotion.  The artificial trees, by contrast, are mass-produced by big corporations, and can be manufactured and imported from anywhere.  And if a family buys an artificial tree, they need never buy another tree, either fake or natural; their business may be lost forever as far as the mom-and-pop tree farmers are concerned.  So the slippage of market share worries them.

The Michigan Christmas Tree Association, among other professional groups, requested that the USDA do for them what it’s done for other groups.  Remember “the more cotton, the better you feel”?  Sales of cotton shot up from those ads, and the Christmas tree growers would like equal assistance for their industry.  They negotiated a small fee that every grower would pay to an account administered by the USDA to pay for promotional programs, just as eighteen other commodities are promoted already.

The Heritage Foundation, a primary think-tank/propaganda machine for the Republican party, learned of this program.  Now, the people at the Heritage foundation are not stupid:  many are considered experts in their fields.  So they can’t plead ignorance for what they did next.  It was a calculated, deliberate lie to smear the USDA and to prevent a whole sector of small businesspeople from receiving the sort of assistance regularly given to big agribusinesses and agribillionaires.  They sent out a press release alleging that this was a “Christmas tree tax” sent out by the Obama administration to play Grinch and rake in all sorts of money for the government.  This is a lie and they know it.  This program to help small business owners and family farms producing Christmas trees has been derailed by this smear campaign. Lazy or dishonest reporters repeated this right-wing press release without first checking the facts with either government officials or tree growers.

I’m sure the Heritage Foundation is pleased that it has protected its corporate backers and funding by protecting the artificial Christmas tree manufacturers and sellers.  And I’m sure there are Chinese factory owners who are grateful they will be able to continue increasing their exports of fake trees.  Republicans are delighted with any lie they can use to smear Obama, particularly when it distracts voters from Republican efforts to raise payroll taxes on the working poor and middle class in order to further cut taxes on the wealthy.  Really, the only losers in the whole sad affair are the small family farms that grow Christmas trees, the environment which will have to absorb the pollution from the manufacture of plastic trees (plastic comes from oil, you know) and eventually the trees themselves (which will last a thousand years in landfills), and, of course, the biggest losers—-the American people, who are once again the victims of a cynical lie duping them to cut the throats of their fellow Americans in order to protect the profits of mega-billionaires around the world.

For more information, see http://www.npr.org/2011/12/19/143972797/lawmakers-fight-over-perceived-christmas-tree-tax

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