ALBANY - Farmers will soon have a new incentive to donate produce to New York food banks: A $5,000-a-year tax credit.
The $153 billion state budget approved Sunday includes a long-sought tax credit for farmers who contribute to food pantries across the state, a move supporters touted as a way to boost donations of fresh produce and cut down on waste.
The New York Farm Bureau and food banks have pushed the measure in recent years with some success: The Legislature approved it each of the past two years.
But Gov. Andrew Cuomo had vetoed it both times, insisting the credit be negotiated as part of the state budget.
The tax credit, which now has Cuomo's blessing and takes effect in 2018, is expected to cost $10 million annually.
"We don't know what the impact will be exactly, but our hope is that it will increase donations from farmers, which is really important to us," said Mark Quandt, executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, which covers 23 counties stretching from the Lower Hudson Valley to the North Country.
"A growing part of what we do is fresh produce, and our expectation is the added incentive for the farmers will bring more farms into the fold in terms of donating."
Starting Jan. 1, farmers will be able to receive an income-tax credit worth 25 percent of the fair market value of food they donate to food pantries, food banks or other emergency programs.
The credit is capped at $5,000 annually per farmer or partnership, meaning the maximum credit would require $20,000 of donated food. It will be paid out beginning with income-tax returns filed in 2019 for the 2018 tax year.
The food must be "apparently wholesome" and meet IRS rules for food donations, according to the new law.
The measure had previously been sponsored by Sen. Rich Funke, R-Perinton, Monroe County, who said it will "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," Funke said in a statement.
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