The Department of Agriculture on Thursday officially delayed a proposed 15 cent-per-tree fee paid by Christmas tree producers in order to fund a marketing and promotion effort to help boost tree sales.

The proposal drew heavy criticism from conservatives, who opposed what they said was an Obama administration tax on Christmas trees. The administration said it was not a tax, but an industry-funded fee that the industry supported for marketing purposes. Still, conservatives said the fee on producers would likely be passed on to consumers.


In a Federal Register notice Thursday morning, USDA said the Nov. 8 final rule establishing the Christmas tree board was delayed indefinitely. But it indicated that once the operation of the program is clarified to the public, the rule would take effect.

"Due to recent events, the regulations are stayed in order to provide all interested persons, including the Christmas tree industry and the general public, an opportunity to become more familiar with the program," it said.

Other agricultural industries have similar self-funded marketing boards, although some receive government funding.