Starting in the 2015 fiscal year, farmers and ranchers in Colorado can be rewarded simply for doing good. The Colorado Charitable Crop Donation Act was signed into law May 30 by Gov. John Hickenlooper after passing both houses with bipartisan support, and starting July 1, created a tax credit for Colorado food producers that is proportionate to the amount of food they donate to local charities.
The Colorado Charitable Crop Donation Act was supported by Hunger Free Colorado, a statewide organization that works to combat hunger, and Feeding Colorado, the association of the five large Colorado food banks — Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, Community Food Share, Food Bank for Larimer County, Food Bank of the Rockies and Weld Food Bank.
Additional support for the bill was provided by the Colorado Farm Bureau, LiveWell Colorado, Colorado Nonprofit Association and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.
“The goal of the legislation is two-fold, one is to increase supply of nutritious food into local emergency food systems,” said Kathy Underhill, the executive director of Hunger Free Colorado. “We realize as pragmatists that the farmers and ranchers need an incentive to do this. The tax credit provides a little bit of help for the farmers and ranchers to be able to bring those donations out of the field and ranches and into the emergency food system.”
The process is more or less simple — when a farmer donates crops, he or she will be given a credit certificate by the food bank to which they donate. The food bank will appraise the wholesale value of the produce, and by that figure, the farmer will be able to receive a tax credit of 25 percent the marketable value of the produce, up to $5,000.
When taxes are turned in at the end of a fiscal year, the dollar amount from these credit certificates will be deducted from the amount of tax due. If the credit exceeds the amount due, it can be rolled over into subsequent years.
Nick Colglazier, the director of state affairs for the Colorado Farm Bureau, said that the organization understands the need for this fresh produce in food banks and pantries and the vital role the state’s agricultural community can play in helping.
“One things that food banks and some of the charitable organizations seem to be lacking is those exact things,” Colglazier said. “They just cannot keep fresh food, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits stocked.”
According to Bob Boswell, the food procurement and transportation manager for Weld Food Bank, the effort to bring produce to those in need is one that charities across the state have been working toward, and this bill will help fill a major need in the food bank system.
“Fresh produce is such an important part of everyone’s diet. We, last year, were able to distribute here in Weld County 3 million pounds of fresh produce. Most of that came from Colorado,” Boswell said. “Food banks primary responsibility is to make sure that people get enough food, and that’s raw calories, but above and beyond that, what we really want is to get them proper nutrition.”
According to Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, who one of two senators sponsoring the bill, it received little to no pushback and flew through the state legislature.
“It makes a lot of sense when you think about how many hungry people we actually have in Colorado and how many people who access things like food banks don’t get fresh food,” Hodge said. “And we have farmers, large truck farmers who could probably do one more round in their fields after they meet their contracts, giving them an incentive to do so hopefully will put fresh food in the market. It’s just good for the world.”
The legislators sponsoring the bill with Hodge were Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango and Rep. Tim Dore, R-Elizabeth.
The Adobe House Farm in Durango, a community-supported agriculture farm started in 2010 by Peter and Linley Dixon and their now four-year-old daughter Raina, was the site for the bill signing.
According to Linley Dixon, owner and head farmer at the Adobe House Farm, the event drew both local community members and area farmers to see the governor sign the legislation.
“He was great. He was really fun to be around, and he gave a nice little talk along with Mike McLachlan,” Dixon said. “He interacted with my daughter really well, so that was pretty fun to see. He gave her the pen after he signed, and let my daughter write on his hands, so that was pretty sweet too.”
Dixon also said that she thought the bill was a promising first step in encouraging donation, which can be a difficult and costly thing for farmers.
“I think it’s great, honestly. It’s really hard to donate for most farms because its a lot of work,” Dixon said. “To incentivize that a little bit is really important. Frankly, I don’t think its incentivized enough, but it’s a start.”
Colglazier said that for farmers, the Colorado Charitable Crop Donation act gives an opportunity for them to do what labor and harvesting costs previously prohibited. He described how sometimes, food that isn’t high-quality enough for grocery stores goes to waste, and this bill will help alleviate that.
“The food is still as nutritious and just as tasty, but they have a blemish, and so its not acceptable for consumer produce, but they are totally edible,” Coglazier said. “This will allow them to do something with it, but they need a little bit of an incentive, because it just takes money, there is a cost associated with getting out of the field. So this will help offset a little bit of that cost so that they can get it out of that field, and they don’t have to bear the burden of harvesting something that they can’t sell.” ❖