"There wasn't any market for those trees," he said. "People left the industry and we've shrunk."
Between 2010 and 2015, the number of acres growing Christmas trees in Oregon fell to 41,223 from 57,250, federal data show.
Some growers planted other crops that were more profitable, and some faced a generational change, Hundley said.
"A lot of the growers started out in the 1950s. They are all aged out and their children sometimes aren't as interested in carrying on," he said.
Tougher conditions have winnowed trees, too.
"In an average year, about 10 percent of the seedlings die," Landgren said. "In these last two years, growers have experienced 50 percent, 60 percent and even 70 percent losses on noble firs."
Another factor: With vast distances to cover getting trees from the growers to market, higher fuel prices are contributing to higher costs.
Diesel, the fuel that powers long-haul trucks, is averaging more than $2.80 a gallon nationwide, up more than 40 cents from a year earlier, according to AAA. In California, diesel is averaging more than $3.55 a gallon, up about 70 cents from a year earlier.
Lopez, who runs Lopez Pumpkin Patch and Christmas Trees from the Venice United Methodist Church parking lot, agrees that everyone should be able to find a tree, but it might not be up to the standards of past years.
Getting 200 noble firs to sell used to be a simple, single-source purchase. This year, Lopez said he thinks distributors might be hoarding for fear of running out before the tree-buying season ends.