A broad coalition of New York legislators, farmers, anti-hunger and environmental advocates asked Governor Cuomo today to “step up to the dinner plate” and include funding for the Farm to Food Bank bill (S.1606/A.6192) in the final New York State budget. The group held a joint press conference at the Capitol in Albany on Wednesday, March 22.
The bill, which has overwhelming bipartisan support among legislators, would provide a refundable tax credit to farmers of 25 percent of the wholesale value of donated food, up to $5,000 annually. The money is intended to offset the cost of transporting fresh food from farms to regional food banks and pantries across the state. It has twice been vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who expressed support for the intent of the bill, but objected to the fact that it was passed outside of the budget process. This year, the bill has once again passed the Senate in a bipartisan fashion, and it was included in both the Senate and Assembly’s one-house budget resolutions.
“Our Farm to Food Bank program is a win-win for local farmers and at-risk families, yet the Governor has twice vetoed this common-sense solution to help feed our hungry,” said Senator Rich Funke, the bill’s Senate sponsor. “We do agree with the Governor that a proposal like this really belongs in the state budget, which is why we worked hard to include it in the Senate budget proposal passed last week. In the spirit of March Madness, the ball’s now in the Governor’s court, and we hope he joins us to support local farmers and hungry families this year.”
In 2016, New York farmers donated 13.2 million pounds of food, the equivalent of more than 10 million meals, to regional food banks in New York through Harvest for All, a Feeding America program. Only California donated more, with a total of 15.1 million pounds.
“Hard times should not mean making hard choices about the food you put on the family dinner table,” said Assemblymember Francisco P. Moya, sponsor of the Assembly bill. “Not in New York; not when New York’s farmers have an abundance of extra food they’re willing to donate. The costs of bringing these crops to our food banks and pantries have needlessly stood in the way of feeding families in need, and until we help farmers cover some of these costs, we’ll continue to allow good food to go to waste. This year I’ve managed to include the Farm to Food Bank bill in the Assembly budget bill, hopefully making it the first year that this legislation passes not only both chambers, but also gets signed into law.”
“Farmers have long demonstrated their generosity by collaborating with their regional food banks,” said Chris Kelder, owner of Kelder’s Farms in Kerhonkson, NY and a state director of New York Farm Bureau. “But this bill will support even greater donations and help New Yorkers who can least afford local food to feed their families a nutritious meal.”
“Our member food banks have longstanding relationships with their local farmers and the donations we receive now are helping us feed [New Yorkers],” said Food Bank Association of New York State Executive Director Anita Paley. “There is no doubt in our minds, if the governor funds Farm to Food Bank, it will only encourage an increase in the same quality donations to benefit those who are unable to afford fresh, healthy food.”
“When we have so many hungry, including children, seniors, veterans, and the working poor, it is not right to allow fresh vegetables and fruits to go to waste in farm fields. Access to these nutritious foods is important to the health and well-being of those facing poverty, especially in light of possible federal cuts to Medicaid,” stated Susan Zimet, Executive Director of Hunger Action Network of NYS. “The Governor has stated over and over that no one ‘should go hungry in the state of New York.’ We hope he will take his words to heart and work with the Legislature to include the Farm to Food Bank bill in the final 2017-2018 State Budget.”