NY Farmers Who Donate Farm-Fresh Produce to Emergency Food Programs Serving 2.7 Million Food-Insecure New Yorkers Now Eligible for Tax Credit
Statewide Coalition of Anti-Hunger, Agricultural, and Environmental Organizations Win 2-Year Fight to Incentivize Farmers to Donate More Food
ALBANY, NY ─ After being passed unanimously by the Legislature in 2015 and 2016 but twice vetoed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Farm to Food Bank bill has finally become reality.
Thanks to the efforts of bill sponsors Senator Rich Funke and Assemblymember Francisco Moya, along with the support of their colleagues Assemblymembers Marcos Crespo and Philip Palmesano and Senators Pat Ritchie and Tom O’Mara – and backed by the relentless force of a tenacious statewide coalition — the Farm to Food Bank tax credit was included in the 2017-2018 Final Budget.
“I’m proud the new state budget will make our Farm to Food Bank program a reality and help farmers move even more fresh produce to those in need. By extending a modest credit to help farmers cover the cost of processing and transporting excess produce, we will simultaneously put more food into the emergency food stream and reduce unnecessary waste in landfills along the way. I thank Assemblyman Moya, our partners in government, and advocates from across the state for helping us to secure this win-win for at-risk families,” said Senator Rich Funke.
“I’m proud to announce that the Farm to Food Bank bill has been included in the final budget, bringing much needed relief to the many New Yorkers still food-insecure throughout the state. Food should never go to waste, especially when so many families put their children to sleep at night with hunger pangs. Under this law, excess yields and unmarketable crops will stock the shelves of our food banks instead of mounting in dumps. I’m incredibly thankful to all the advocates and organizations that have been instrumental in seeing this legislation through the legislature, and to my colleague Senator Funke for his leadership in the Senate. A small tax break for farmers is a big break for New York’s hungry families relying on charitable food donations to put food on the table,” said Assemblymember Francisco P. Moya.
Advocates of the measure – including New York Farm Bureau, Hunger Action Network of NYS, NRDC, Food Banks of New York State, and Campaign for Strong Communities – are grateful to the Assembly and Senate leadership and the Governor for working together during budget negotiations this month to get this done. Hunger, growing food, and environmental stewardship are not bipartisan or “upstate vs. downstate” issues; all New Yorkers are beneficiaries of the Farm to Food Bank tax credit, directly or indirectly.
The measure, which gives New York farmers a refundable tax credit up to $5,000 per year for donations of fresh produce made to emergency food programs, is a modest incentive expected to cost the state less than a million dollars. The money would go towards offsetting the not-insubstantial costs of labor, packaging, and transport of fresh food to food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens throughout the state. This is food that might otherwise go to waste in the field or wind up rotting in landfills due to high yields or blemishes that make the still fresh and nutritious produce unappealing to the average consumer.
With nearly 1 out of 6 New Yorkers depending on emergency food to get by, every action the state takes to combat hunger is a necessary one. A $5,000 tax credit translates to $20,000 of donated fruits and vegetables since the credit is calculated at 25% of the wholesale value of the food. The returns on this investment in terms of the economic welfare of our farmers and the health and well-being of our most vulnerable residents are immeasurable. In 2016, New York farmers donated 13.2 million pounds of food – which equates to 10 million meals and was the second highest in the country. We look forward to seeing those numbers rise thanks to the Farm to Food Bank tax credit.
“The members of the Food Bank Association of New York State cannot be more thrilled with the collaboration between state government and community partners to feed NYS through this tax credit. We are very appreciative of the efforts of Senator Funke and Assemblyman Moya as well as the Governor’s signature on this budget,” stated Anita Paley, Executive Director of the Food Banks of New York State.
“After an intensive, two-year lobbying effort, the inclusion of the Farm to Food Bank legislation in this year’s budget is a great victory for the approximately 2.7 million hungry New Yorkers, our hard-working farmers, and the environment. Special thanks to Senator Funke and Assemblyman Moya for their unflagging commitment to this legislation and to Governor Cuomo for living up to his word about approving it if it were done within the budget,” stated Susan Zimet, Executive Director of Hunger Action Network of NYS. “Assemblymen Crespo and Palmesano and Senators Ritchie and O’Mara deserve a big thank you for helping us achieve this success. And a thank you to the more than 150 anti-hunger, farmer, and environmental groups who helped get this legislation into the budget and nutritious fruits and vegetables into the hands of the hungry.”
“New York Farm Bureau and its farmer members applaud the inclusion of the Farm to Food Bank bill in the final budget. It allows our farmers to continue their generous donations to local food banks in their communities and helps offset the associated costs – including labor, packaging, and shipping – that can put quite a financial burden on a family farm. Farmers in New York will now be able to donate even more fresh fruits and vegetables to others in a time of need, and it will encourage farmers to utilize crops that may otherwise be left in the field,” said David Fisher, President of New York Farm Bureau.
“Providing a tax credit for farmers who donate edible food to food banks is good policy and results in multiple benefits,” said Richard Schrader, Political and Legislative Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in New York. “Farmers are assisted in getting food to hungry New Yorkers. Importantly, this food, instead of rotting in a landfill emitting methane – a potent greenhouse gas – is being put to good use feeding hungry people.”
“Community advocates and the Legislature worked tirelessly to ensure the success of this commonsense measure. Anytime we can help families meet one of their most basic needs, all of society benefits,” stated Jessica Schafroth, Coalition Manager for Campaign for Strong Communities. “The Farm to Food Bank tax credit is a win-win-win for New York’s farmers, environment, and food- insecure people.”