Helping farmers help those in need

Virginia Farm Bureau has been advocating on behalf of Virginia’s farmers in the General Assembly for 50 years. Earlier this year, Farm Bureau supported a bill that also stands to benefit Virginians 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, creates 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 will become available in July and will 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. But it could be an effective incentive for farmers to donate surplus food—or plant more specifically to donate.

Last July, Phillips organized a gleaning and donation of surplus sweet corn from his farm by his church’s youth group. “I hated that (the corn) was sitting out there going to waste,” he said.

HB 1093 and SB 580 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.

Phillips was among the farmers who met with McAuliffe this past winter. He told the first lady that farmers he knows “mentioned that they would actually consider planting (more) to donate.”

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