Gov. Andrew Cuomo gets to take a third bite out of the apple, so to speak, by supporting a bill that would give state farmers a small tax credit for donating fresh produce to food pantries that serve needy individuals, veterans and children.
After the governor vetoed the bill each of the past two years, lawmakers addressed the governor’s concerns and have given him even more reason to sign this bill when it comes before him a third time.
The incentive, a $5,000 tax credit, would help offset the farmers’ out-of-pocket expenses for harvesting, packaging and delivering the food to those who need it most.
According to the state Farm Bureau, the donations are either the result of farmers producing more fruit and vegetables than they can sell or are items that have slight blemishes that make them unsellable at the supermarket but which are still perfectly fine to eat.
Produce that’s not sold or given away either rots in the fields or is sent to landfills, where it helps no one.
Last year, New York farmers donated 13.2 million pounds of food, providing more than 10 million meals to needy families. But even though the economy has been recovering, the need for food donations remains high, so it’s in the interests of the state government to encourage even more donations through this modest but valuable tax credit.
Among the governor’s reasons for vetoing the tax credit in December was that its $800,000 cost to the state was not included in the Legislature’s budget bills.
Given that that amount is a drop in the bucket in the $153 billion state budget — especially compared to the value to the poor — and considering how much money in the state budget already is set aside for undefined needs, that argument was specious.
Nonetheless, the Senate and Assembly this year included the amount in their respective budget bills, as requested.
The governor also was concerned in his veto that there was no way to determine the amount of the donation in order to justify a specific tax break.
But the new bill sets the value of the donation at 25 percent of the wholesale value of the food. That’s a specific, measurable value.
The governor also said in his veto that farmers already benefit from tax breaks. But those breaks often go to large farm operations, not the small local farmers that make many of the donations to our local food pantries.
A $5,000 tax credit would help encourage farmers to donate even more excess produce to help the needy by helping offset some of their expenses for providing the donation.
When the governor gets a third bite at this apple, we urge him to swallow hard and sign the bill this time.