Kentucky voices: Farmers can claim tax credit for donating to food banks

Most of us can agree that the 2013 session of the Kentucky General Assembly ended with a much greater sense of accomplishment than in recent years. Action was taken on a number of important issues, including work on pension reform, raising the school dropout age and authorizing a panel to review child abuse deaths.

Anti-hunger advocates and our allies in the farming community are also thrilled with the enactment of legislation that will provide an incentive for farmers to donate agricultural products to food banks.

Gov. Steve Beshear recently hosted a bill-signing ceremony for legislation that will establish a state income tax credit for farmers who donate to food banks. Beginning in 2014, Kentucky farmers donating produce, beef, poultry or other edible agricultural products to a food bank will be eligible to receive a credit against their state tax liability. The credit will be equal to 10 percent of the value of the donated product.

We believe the tax credit will be a crucial tool in the fight against hunger in Kentucky. Seventeen percent of Kentuckians — more than 750,000 — do not always know where their next meal will come from, including many seniors and working parents whose budgets have been squeezed by the economic downturn and slow recovery. Food banks across Kentucky have seen an unprecedented increase in requests for food assistance statewide.

At the same time, the supply of food available for distribution has decreased. We know that farmers want to help solve this problem, and the new tax credit will provide them an additional incentive to donate their excess product.

The Legislative Research Commission projects minimal revenue impact for the commonwealth as a result of this tax credit: $100,000 per year or less. The return on investment far outweighs the costs.

For example, the commonwealth can enable struggling Kentuckians to benefit from $1,000 worth of healthful food for a $100 credit given to a farmer. A well-fed population will save the commonwealth much more down the road in terms of reduced health-care costs, increased educational performance and enhanced worker productivity.

We are grateful to Rep. Tom McKee, D -Cynthiana, for sponsoring the bill, and for the 28 members of the General Assembly, from both parties, who signed on as co-sponsors. Support from Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo was also crucial. Once again our leaders have demonstrated that the fight against hunger is not a partisan issue in Kentucky.

The enactment of this tax credit bill is a win for farmers who donate to food banks, it's a win for our neighbors who struggle to put food on the table and it's a win for the commonwealth in terms of reduced long-term costs associated with a healthy, well-fed population.

To learn more about the Kentucky Association of Food Banks and what you can do to join the fight against hunger, visit www.kafb.org.