Island Gazette

North Carolina Has Excellent 2011 Christmas Tree Crop

RALEIGH, N.C. : November 23, 2011 - With Thanksgiving just a day away, North Carolina Christmas tree farmers are gearing up for a busy month. Choose and cut operations will open this weekend across the western part of the state for consumers hoping to find the perfect Christmas tree. For weeks, growers have already been harvesting and preparing trees for shipment across the country for sale at home improvement centers, grocery stores and other retail locations.
“We’ve had a good growing season and consumers will find a good, healthy selection and wide variety of sizes which to choose from,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.
Consumers who don’t have time to drive to the mountains can find fresh, N.C. Christmas trees at stands and local farmers markets starting this weekend. The Fraser fir is the dominant Christmas tree produced in North Carolina, where the elevation and climate in western counties create perfect growing conditions for the crop. North Carolina growers also produce Concolor fir, blue spruce, red cedar, Leyland cypress, Carolina Saphire and Blue Ice Arizona cypress and white pine trees.
For a list of choose and cut farms in North Carolina, visit www.ncfarmfresh.com
North Carolina Christmas tree facts:
• North Carolina ranks second in the nation in Christmas tree production.
• More than 5 million Christmas trees are harvested annually.
•  In 2010, Christmas tree cash receipts generated $85 million for the state's economy.
• There are more than 1,000 Christmas tree growers in the state, with farms ranging from 1/10 of an acre to more than 1,000 acres.
• N.C. Christmas tree growers have committed to donate more than 1,000 trees to the Trees for Troops program. Trees will be delivered to military families stationed at Marine Corp Air Station New River, Camp LeJeune, Fort Story in Virginia, and Fort Bliss in Texas.
According to the According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA) (online at www.usfa.dhs.gov), each year fires occurring during the holiday season claim the lives of over 400 people, injure 1,650 more, and cause over $990 million in damage. There are simple life-saving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday. By following some of the outlined precautionary tips, individuals can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.
Preventing Christmas Tree Fires:
• Christmas Tree Fire Hazards
Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.
• Selecting a Tree for the Holiday
Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
• Caring for Your Tree
Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
• Disposing of Your Tree
Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or woodburning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
Holiday Lights
• Maintain Your Holiday Lights
Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
• Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets
Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.
• Do Not Leave Holiday Lights on Unattended
• Holiday Decorations
• Use Only Nonflammable Decorations
All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
• Never Put Wrapping Paper in a Fireplace It can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers and may result in a chimney fire.
• Artificial Christmas Trees
If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
Candle Care
• Avoid Using Lit Candles
If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.
• Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree: Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame - candles, lighters or matches.
Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.
There's been a lot of talk lately about a tax on Christmas Trees. According to the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, that's not the case. It's a public-education program where growers pay 15 cents per tree sold to fund the program.
The “Christmas Tree Tax” is not an actual tax, but a commodity “checkoff” program stipulated under the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996 and overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This program was requested by the industry in 2009 and has gone through two industry-wide comment periods during which 565 comments were submitted from interested parties.
More than 70% of the growers posting comments, and nearly 90% of the state and multi-state associations that posted comments indicated that they were in favor of the program.
A group of Christmas tree farmers and retailers spent nearly three years studying the potential positives and negatives of a checkoff promotion and research program, including looking at other commodities that have similar programs.
The commodity checkoff program is designed to benefit the industry and will be funded by the growers at a rate of 15 cents per tree sold. The program will be administered by an independent 12-member board of small business owners who grow and sell farm-grown Christmas trees and they will be responsible for developing and approving promotional and research efforts to benefit the entire industry.
The program is not expected to have any impact on the final price consumers pay for their Christmas tree.
There are at least 18 other similar programs already in effect for various agricultural commodities including; “Got Milk?”, “Beef, It’s what’s for dinner”, “Pork: The Other White Meat”, and “The Incredible, Edible Egg”. Although smaller in scope, the Christmas tree program will be similar to these programs.
Christmas tree growers believe that the artificial tree industry has been able to spread false information, leading the American public to believe that artificial trees are safer, greener, and better for the American economy.
Since 2009, growers have been working to find a way to spread their own message, that they believe it is the exact opposite: real trees are safer, greener and better for the American economy. We believe the commodity checkoff program will give us an opportunity to do just that.
The Real Christmas Tree vs. the Fake Christmas Tree
Real Christmas trees are plantation grown on American family farms, making an important economic contribution to many rural communities in the United States.
• Real Christmas trees absorb carbon dioxide and other harmful “greenhouse” gases and release fresh oxygen into the air. A Real Christmas tree has a fragrance beyond compare.
• One acre of Christmas trees provides the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people. There are about 500,000 acres of Christmas trees in the United States which collectively provide oxygen for 9 million people daily. Young, fast-growing trees like Christmas trees release more oxygen than mature forest trees.
• For every Real Christmas tree harvested, another one is planted in its place to ensure a steady supply year after year. Christmas tree fields support turkey, quail, songbirds, rabbits and deer.
• When planted outside after the Holidays, balled and burlaped Real Christmas Trees temper winds, suppress loud sounds, filter dust, moderate temperature, and dissipate odors.
• Real Christmas trees are an all-American renewable, recyclable resource. After the holidays, Real trees are chipped into biodegradable mulch, which replenishes soil in landscapes, parks, and schools. Most communities offer recycling programs.
• Recycled Real Christmas trees are also used as wind and water barriers at beaches and river beds to fight sand and soil erosion. They protect our water supplies, and provide refuge for wildlife. When sunk in ponds, they provide excellent refuge and feeding areas for fish.
• Real Christmas trees can be used as a feeding station and winter shelter for songbirds in your yard.
• Some consumers are allergic to dust that accumulates on surfaces of Real trees grown outside. You can wash most allergens off by spraying the tree with water before bringing it inside.
• The safest Christmas tree is a fresh, well-watered tree. A Real tree has never started a fire. Faulty Christmas lights, candles, and fireplaces can start tree fires.
Fake Trees:
• Fake Christmas trees are made in Korea, Taiwan, or China. Importing artificial trees contributes to the US trade deficit.
• Fake Christmas trees are made from nonrenewable plastics. The manufacture of petroleum-based plastics use up natural resources. Once used, they are gone forever.
• Furthermore, the manufacture of both plastic and metal components in the tree consume energy and create pollution.
• The average use of a Fake Christmas tree is only 6 or 7 years. Eventually, they all go to the landfill as garbage.
• Fake Christmas trees are not biodegradable. The plastics and metals that they contain, including lead, will remain in our landfills for centuries.
• Three Asian wood-boring beetle species have been imported to America on the wooden trunks of Fake trees. Undetected, these insects could attack native forest trees and lumber.
• Some consumers have suffered an allergic reaction to materials in their Fake tree.
• When a Fake Christmas tree catches fire, it releases dangerous toxic fumes into the home.

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