Be prepared to pay a bit more for your Christmas tree this year.
Oregon's Christmas tree industry, traditionally a powerhouse for the country's holiday firs, has faced a cool down in supply as growers have sold fewer trees and left the market.
This signals a reversal from the glut of inventory growers had faced during this millennium that forced prices on the trees down. The Pacific Northwestern trees can make their way across the U.S. and overseas.
In Oregon, harvest and sales of trees dropped 26 percent in 2015 compared to 2010, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, with Oregon growers selling 4.7 million trees. In 2015, Clackamas and Marion counties had the most acreage allotted to tree-growing in the state.
Dave Losh, a statistician with the USDA, said growers planted an overabundance of trees compared to the demand for them. As supply outpaced demand, prices fell and growers left the industry.
“Now it’s just a matter of who’s left,” he said.
Hupp Farms in the Silverton area is one of those businesses.
“We’re getting inundated with phone calls,” said Tracy Fisher, a bookkeeper and office manager with Hupp Farms. The company has seen high sales and turned down at least 50 to 75 inquiries for trees. “People are just scrambling for Christmas trees,” she said.
She said people are going to end up paying more for their Christmas trees. Hupp Farms is selling noble firs for around $5 per foot — popular sizes are between 6 and 8 feet tall. Fisher said their prices have returned to 2005 levels.
The farm has sold 22,000 trees. “We’ll do about 50 (thousand),” she said.
Jami Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association, said the nation's market for trees is hardy, though drought in California and the Northeast has affected production there. She said people won't have an issue finding trees this year.
Oregon trees go around the continental U.S. and abroad, said Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association. They can go overseas to Asia, for example.
While supplies have tightened, Ostlund said, he wouldn’t call it a shortage. He attributes Oregon's leadership in the nation to its ideal climate for the trees' growth.
“It’s what mother nature provides us here in the Northwest,” he said, later adding, "It's just a perfect natural growing environment for these conifers."