ALBANY — The state Department of Agriculture and Markets is pushing farmers to take advantage of a new 25 percent state tax credit for donating food to food banks and pantries, donations local food pantries said are welcome as the holiday season approaches.
Ag and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball released a reminder to farmers Tuesday that the state offers a tax credit to farmers who donate food to eligible organizations that provide food to the needy.
The state Legislature enacted the tax credit, which is for 25 percent of the fair market value of qualified donations, in 2017, It took effect Jan. 1, so farmers can start collecting refunds next tax year starting in January.
“As the fall harvest winds down, I want to remind farmers that they can help those in need while offsetting their costs by donating to qualified food banks, pantries and emergency food programs,” Ball said. “It’s a win-win, helping to feed those in need and providing a boost to those who produce our abundant and nutritious farm foods and beverages.”
Farmers can get a maximum benefit of $5,000 per year. An eligible farmer who makes qualified donations, with a fair market value of $12,000 this year, would be allowed a 25 percent credit, equaling $3,000. The credit is expected to save $10 million for farmers statewide, who donated more than $10 million worth of food last year, according to the Department of Agriculture.
“Almost all of our local farmers donate food to us,” said Jill Wishon, director of the Salvation Army at 40 South 3rd St., Hudson. “People drop food off here all day, every day.”
The Salvation Army holds at least two food pantries a week — mainly Tuesday and Friday — and Wishon said the food comes in and is gone quickly.
“Our farmers here in Columbia County are very generous to us,” Wishon said. “I think it would be great to see them benefit from their contributions, that they see some kind of recognition.”
Business owners subject to state income tax, whose incomes are primarily from farming activity, and corporate franchise taxpayers and farmers who are in partnerships, or are shareholders of a state corporation, can claim the tax credit.
Farmers must donate food that meets quality and labeling standards to food banks, food pantries or other emergency food programs operating in the state that qualify for tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
“I think this is a wonderful thing,” said Patti Dushane, executive director of the Matthew 25 Food Pantry, 8 Union St., Catskill.
Dushane added that she does not think it will help her small organization of 29 volunteers.
“They will get more money back from donating to the Northeast Regional Food Bank,” Dushane said. “I get my food from the food bank. I don’t go up there frequently because it is tough.”
The food bank is in Latham.
Dushane also gets leftover food from High Hill Food Pantry in Athens, some of which she can use. She does not receive donations from local farmers, she said.
“We serve the county,” Dushane said. “People come to us from Coxsackie for Thanksgiving dinner.”
Matthew 25 will hold its annual turkey distribution Nov. 17 and Dushane is signing people up for it.
People can sign up to get a turkey and the fixings by calling, but Dushane is encouraging people to come into the food pantry so they can get a ticket, which will help ensure participants get a turkey.
The Fortnightly Club of Catskill and Athens Generating Plant workers will help the pantry set up for the turkey distribution.
The Salvation Army will kick off its Kettle fundraiser — the familiar bell-ringing Santa Claus — its biggest fundraiser on Nov. 12. The Salvation Army exceeded its $58,000 goal last year at around $59,000. This year the goal is to raise $60,000.
The kettles will be set up at the Price Choppers in Chatham and Catskill and the ShopRite and Walmart in Hudson.