DURANGO, Colo. (AP) – Farmers and ranchers are getting an incentive to donate much needed produce and meat to Colorado food banks.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill Friday at Adobe House Farm in Durango that will give farmers a tax credit for a quarter of the wholesale market price of the food.

Colorado’s short but intense growing season means about a third of the 4-acre farm’s produce can be wasted in August and September as produce ripens at the same time, Adobe House owner, Linley Bixon, said. The tax credit gives farmers an incentive to pick and wash those crops, rather than turn them back into the soil to nourish the ground, she said.

“There really isn’t a lot of incentive now other than it makes you feel good,” said Bixon, who already donates to Durango’s Manna Soup Kitchen, which picks up leftovers at farmer’s markets.

The tax credit can be used for donations of fruit and vegetables as well as dairy and meat products and even big game hunted by farmers and ranchers. It’s capped at $5,000.

“Now instead of throwing away excess food, farmers will have an incentive to donate extra produce, livestock or big game that will help food banks offer healthy meals to hungry Coloradans,” bill sponsor Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, said in a statement.

The bipartisan bill was promoted by Hunger Free Colorado and Colorado’s five major food banks, including Food Bank of the Rockies, which are looking for new ways to meet increased demand for food since the recession. Supermarkets, once the main supplier of food pantries, don’t provide as much because they have become more efficient.

“What they really need and what they really can’t afford is fresh produce and meat,” Hunger Free Colorado executive director Kathy Underhill said.

California and Arizona were among the first states to pass such food donation tax credits, she said. Oregon also adopted a tax credit and, based on its experience, around 130 farms are expected to claim the credit in Colorado each year, costing the state about $154,000 in lost revenue.

The credit can be claimed by any farmer or rancher who files a profit-and-loss form with the IRS, but not backyard gardeners.

LINKS: Hunger Free Colorado | Food Bank of the Rockies | Manna Soup Kitchen

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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