New York is an extremely diverse state and that leads to a number of differing viewpoints. Whether due to political party, geography, or a variety of other factors, there is no shortage of issues that generate healthy and robust discussion. In Albany, there are times when compromises are reached and there are times when sides agree to disagree. So it is rare to find entirely unanimous agreement on proposed legislation.
One of the bills that passed both the senate and assembly during the 2016 without one negative vote was a measure that would help connect fresh local farm products with those in need by creating a tax credit for farmers who donate to a food bank or other emergency food program.
Under the bill (S.7833), farmers who live in New York State would receive a credit of up to 25 percent of the wholesale cost of a qualified food donation, up to $5,000 per year. The tax credit would help farmers recoup expenses such as transportation and labor involved with bringing unharvested or unmarketed food to a food bank, while encouraging more donations of healthy, wholesome, locally grown food.
The bill was adopted in the senate by a vote of 62-0 and the assembly gave it the thumbs up by a 139-0 vote. The legislation also had the support of several groups around the state including the New York Farm Bureau and the Hunger Action Network. Despite the strong bi-partisan support the governor vetoed this helpful tax credit. The governor also vetoed similar legislation in 2015 – the bill passed both houses unanimously that year as well.
In response to the governor’s veto, New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton issued the following statement:
“During this season of giving, New York Farm Bureau is profoundly disappointed in Governor Cuomo’s veto of a bill that would encourage greater farmer food donations to people in need across the state. The bill would have established a food donation tax credit up to 25 percent of the wholesale price of the food, not to exceed $5,000 annually per farmer. This would help offset the cost of labor, packaging and transportation to get the food to regional food banks. The bi-partisan bill passed by the legislature and information provided to the governor since, have addressed the governor’s concerns in his veto message, which was nearly identical to his 2015 veto message. The current bill established a workable program. More so, the governor’s assertion that this would be “duplicative of existing tax benefits available for charitable food donations” is inaccurate as the current law benefits large corporations and grocery store chains and not the state’s family farms. His justification for vetoing this bill remains baffling. Last year, New York’s farmers donated approximately 13 million pounds of food to regional food banks through the Harvest for All program, and next week during our State Annual Meeting, we will announce the impressive total for 2016. While the generosity of farmers is well established in New York, we are only left to wonder how many additional people could have fresh, local food on their dinner plates in the future if the governor had supported this bill.”
The bill’s sponsor in the senate, Senator Rich Funke, has already vowed to work for passage again next year and in his veto message, the governor did make reference to the need to take up this idea during the annual state budget negotiations. When he offers his budget plan, you can be certain I will be examining the proposal for this worthy tax credit – its absence would be unacceptable.
Our farmers are key contributors to our economy and our way of life. They are also caring, community-minded individuals who are among the first to help others in need. Paying our famers back with a small tax credit will encourage additional donations and help stock our food banks with healthy fare.