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Christmas Tree Drought Hits Hard In Midwest

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(credit: CBS) Jamie Yuccas
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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (WCCO) – Analysts predict that Americans will buy 30 million Christmas trees this year, but in the Midwest Christmas tree farmers have been hit hard by the drought, which could wreak havoc on next year’s crop.

Americans have been spending anywhere from about $30 at a big box store to more than $100 for a top-of-the-line Douglas Fir. But in parts of the Midwest hard hit by drought, many Christmas tree farmers are having a tough year.

Business was brisk at Kris Kringle’s Christmas Tree Farm in Cedar Falls, Iowa a few weeks back. Santa was on hand, but the farm was closing early this year because of the drought.

“I think it’s sad cause maybe in a couple of years we won’t be able to get a real Christmas Tree,” said one customer.

Some 15,000 Christmas trees were killed by drought conditions this year.

Closing early wasn’t a decision that came easily to Danny Moulds, a second generation Christmas tree farmer.

“If we don’t sell 150 trees next weekend, we can save those 150 for the following season,” he said.

Moulds has been hit harder than most. He estimates he’s lost at $300,000 worth of trees.

“This one is a seedling that we planted this spring, this would be a 2-year-old tree, this and this would be a 4 year old,” he said.

The punishing drought that baked the Midwest last summer hit Iowa Christmas tree farmers especially hard. Most operations in the state are small cut and choose farms where customers cut down their own trees. About 20 percent of all sales nationally are made at such farms.

The Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association polled its members and found individual farms lost anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of new plantings.

Bob Moulds, Danny’s father, is president of the association.

“Already in some cases like Danny’s farm and some of the others, they have lost 2 or 3 years’ of trees and they can’t make that up,” he said. “That may be just enough to convince some of these farmers to give it up.”

When Danny Moulds bought his own farm six years ago, his father actually didn’t want him to grow Christmas trees.

“I just told him forget about those trees and get on with the things you want to do,” Bob Moulds said.

Danny Moulds’ response was: “I had had all these trees. What else was I going to do?”

With his father in law working the front gate, his cousins getting trees ready to go, his wife running the cash register, and his mother in law feeding everybody, Moulds’ tree farm is truly a family affair, and a tradition he cannot imagine giving up.

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