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Seeds Sown for Oregon Crop-Donation Tax Credit

PHOTO: Oregon lawmakers are being asked to reinstate a crop-donation tax credit for farmers who grow extra produce for food banks and other nonprofit hunger-fighting groups. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: Oregon lawmakers are being asked to reinstate a crop-donation tax credit for farmers who grow extra produce for food banks and other nonprofit hunger-fighting groups. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
February 7, 2014

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon lawmakers are being asked to revive a charitable tax break for farmers who grow crops to donate to their local food banks and other nonprofit groups.

The state used to offer a 10 percent tax credit for crop donations, but it wasn't enough to cover costs of harvesting the produce and transporting it to food banks. The new legislation would reinstate the credit and increase it to 15 percent of the donated crop's wholesale value.

At Food for Lane County, executive director Beverly Hughes says her organization has noticed a difference without the crop donation credit.

"We get lots of crops brought to us at the end of the harvest season, but those numbers have certainly dropped off since this tax credit sunsetted two years ago,” she says. “We have seen some noticeable decreases in the amount of donations coming our way."

At Johnson Farms near Eugene, owner Walt Johnson says he still would grow and donate some crops without the tax credit. However, like many other businesses, farmers are trying to cut seed, fuel and other costs, and Johnson says it's less expensive to plow under leftover crops than it is to share them.

"By having the tax credit, I can plant a little extra,” he says. “Basically, the biggest cost is in the harvest. And what we're looking at is, what can we do to offset that – because I've got the will, but I just need an economic incentive to make it happen."

Molly McCargar, co-owner of Pearmine Farms in Gervais, says she routinely plants extra acres of green beans or corn to donate. Even though she thinks the paperwork to get the tax credit can be a hassle, she's among the farmers talking it up to lawmakers.

"From what I could gather, they are in support of this concept,” she relates. “They see the need. They know that Oregon ranks in the top five, nationally, for hunger – and that's not acceptable, when agriculture's one of your top industries in the state."

The Oregon Food Bank estimates with a 15 percent tax credit, every dollar would bring in about 11 pounds of donated food. Legislators will have to evaluate that return on investment against a potential $250,000 in decreased tax revenue.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR