Farmers Say Tax Credit Is Good, But More Needs To Be Done

WARWICK, N.Y. -- Like many farmers, onion farmer Chris Pawelski donates some of his unused produce to food pantries, even though he says there's a cost associated with that.

"To go out and harvest it, pick it, bring it in, sort it clean it grade is and package it, those are all additional costs," he said.

Pawelski says in some ways, farmers like him will benefit from a bill under consideration by Gov. Cuomo.

It would give farmers up to $5,000 in tax breaks if they donate to food banks.

"If there is an incentive, any kind of financial incentive, people are going to  be more likely to do it," Pawelski said.

However, he says the bill, which was vetoed last year, doesn't go far enough for an industry that already has a huge tax burden.

"It's kind of a like applying a band aid to a gunshot wound," he said.

"Farmers are going to donate regardless, regardless of whether there's money there," said Stiles Najak of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

She says even without any state incentives, her gleaning efforts have netted hundreds of thousands of pounds of donated fruits and vegetables a year in the Hudson Valley.

"The proposed donation will guarantee farmers don't lose value," she said.

Starting last year some farmers started getting a tax credit from the federal government.

She says by design, farmers plant with the intention of having a surplus

"It is a much better bet to plant two fields of corn and have a guarantee at least one will be harvested and sold," said Najak.

Which is good news for people like Mary Moore. Moore is a major at the Salvation Army, who helps feed those who can't feed themselves.

"Which is why I'm not in my uniform today, I was picking up 50-pound bags of onions," Moore said.

She says, they can only afford to offer their clients canned vegetables, but when they get a shipment of fresh produce, it doesn't go unappreciated.

"We have this kind of underground system in Middletown where they see the truck outside the Salvation Army and within 10 minutes people are lining up to get their fresh vegetables," Moore said.

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