Bill to save Christmas trees passed out of committee

A bill sponsored by Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, could save Christmas next year. House Bill 1209 had a hearing on Jan. 31 and was voted out of committee yesterday, Feb. 7. It extends a program that licenses state tree growers and protects their harvest.

“Without this program, if the state Christmas tree crop were to become infested, with gypsy moth or another disease, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) could quarantine the entire harvest,” MacEwen said. “Basically an entire season could be lost by USDA regulation. Since 75 percent of our trees are exported, there could be a lot of unhappy people nationwide in December.”

MacEwen’s bill would extend the program, which is currently in place until 2014 through 2020. Supporting the forestry industry is crucial to MacEwen, and his district, which is why he decided to sponsor this legislation.

“In Mason County alone, 3,897 people are employed by the forestry industry. Statewide the impact of this industry is huge – it provides more than 118,000 jobs and $5.3 billion in wages. We need the forestry industry to thrive because it is important to our state economy,” MacEwen said.