From Jean Blish Siers, Charlotte Area Coordinator for the Society of St. Andrew (and wife of Observer cartoonist Kevin Siers):
In 1984, the North Carolina legislature passed a law allowing farmers to receive a tax credit for up to 10 percent of the value of gleaned crops donated to charities. So it is with profound disappointment that I learned of a small line in the tax bill Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law this week: As of Jan. 1, 2014, the gleaning tax credit will cease to exist. While poverty and hunger increase in our communities, it is shocking that Gov. McCrory and the legislature would take away this incentive to care for the neediest among us.
Everyone pretty well acknowledges that the spring and summer of 2013 have been tough for farmers in North Carolina: A long, cool spring kept crops from growing and producing well. Weeks of rain kept farmers from fields, slowing harvest, and delaying plantings, as well as literally washing crops out of the ground or blighting them.
And yet, just in July, farmers in the counties surrounding Charlotte have donated approximately 60,000 pounds (yes, that is 30 tons!) of good, edible produce through the Society of St. Andrew, the Gleaners. Those crops were distributed to area hunger agencies, feeding the approximately one-fifth of area residents who are food insecure, meaning there are times during the week when they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. This includes children and senior citizens, the most vulnerable of our neighbors.
Children and school groups, Sunday school classes and Scout troops, individuals and families all give of their time to pick produce in the heat and in the cold. People offer their time to drive their trucks to fields and deliver the produce to hunger agencies. All of us who participate in these events come away with a feeling of satisfaction, knowing that a common sense idea – saving produce that would otherwise go to waste and taking it to those in need – is working in our community.
None of it would be possible, though, without farmers. These are men and women who work hard every day but take time to call Society of St. Andrew; they allow us in their fields to gather what is left. Sometimes it’s produce that is already harvested but which they can’t sell at market – too big, too small, too ripe. It takes time from their days to have us on their farms and in their coolers. They help us load the trucks. They offer tips on raising squash and tomatoes while they do it. They are generous beyond belief.
No farmer raises a crop to see it go to waste. The tax credit was a way the state could offer a small incentive for farmers to work with Society of St. Andrew and other gleaning agencies to feed the most vulnerable among us. I hope that the legislature can see the folly of discouraging something so basic and decent.
For more information on the Society of St. Andrew, visit endhunger.org.
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