Bill would create tax credit for farmers who donate to food banks

newspaperFarmers are watching a bill in the Virginia General Assembly that stands to benefit not only them but also Virginians statewide who are in need of food.

HB 1093, introduced by Del. Benjamin Cline, R-Amherst, and SB 580, introduced by Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, would create a state income tax credit for farmers who make food crop donations to a food bank. The credit would equal 30 percent of the fair market value of such donations, not to exceed $5,000.

The bill defines food crops as grains, fruits, nuts or vegetables. The credit would become available in July and would last through 2020.

“It’s not going to be a program that farmers are going to use to make money,” said Montgomery County dairyman and sweet corn grower Casey Phillips. At most, he explained, “it might help cover some of the seed costs.”

But it could be an effective incentive, Phillips added, for farmers to donate surplus food—or plant more specifically to donate.

Last July, Phillips organized a donation of surplus sweet corn from his farm by the youth group from Bethel United Methodist Church in Montgomery. “I hated that (the corn) was sitting out there going to waste,” he said. Involving youth from his church created an opportunity to expose them to farming while benefiting the community.

“They did all the work” in the field, “and we took it to the food bank for them,” he said. The 800 pounds of corn was welcomed at the It’s All About Jesus Outreach and Help Center in Radford, an affiliate of the Feeding America hunger relief organization.

HB 1093 and SB 580 have received support from Virginia’s first lady, Dorothy McAuliffe, who has focused efforts on addressing childhood hunger and improving Virginians’ access to fresh and local foods. She met Feb. 8 with participants in Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Growing Leaders programs.

Phillips was among the farmers who met with McAuliffe and legislators. He said he told the first lady that farmers with whom he’s talked about the proposed tax credit “mentioned that they would actually consider planting (more) to donate” if it is enacted.

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