The legislation, A10584, was supported by interest groups, namely the Hunger Action Network of New York State and the New York Farm Bureau. Farmers filing under the personal income tax or corporation franchise tax would be eligible for a tax credit equal up to 25 percent of the value of food donated to a food bank.
The state Assembly and Senate passed the bill by votes of 139-0 and 62-0, respectively.
“While the bill refers to accepted wholesale prices, the age, quality and quantity of the donated food will vary, as will the market for such food, thus making it extremely difficult to establish an enforceable and verifiable wholesale value in regulation,” Cuomo wrote in his veto message.
“This uncertainty would harm all parties, as the state would have no method to audit a farmer’s valuation and the farmer would have no basis upon which to dispute the results of the state’s audit.”
Cuomo also raised questions about the bill’s failure to define certain terms, which could allow non-farmers to take advantage of the tax credit. And he expressed concern about how the credit would impact the state’s finances. He said the farm-to-food bank tax credit should be addressed during state budget negotiations.
The veto disappointed farm and hunger groups that pushed for its final approval.
Susan Zimet, executive director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State, called Cuomo’s veto “misguided.”
Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau, said the tax credit would offset the costs of labor, packaging and transportation of the food to food banks and other anti-hunger programs.
Norton disputed one claim made by Cuomo that the proposed tax credit would be duplicative of existing benefits. He noted that the existing credit benefits grocery store chains and large corporations, not family farms.
According to Norton, New York farmers donated roughly 13 million pounds of food to food banks through the Harvest for All program last year. This year’s donation total will be announced next week at the farm bureau’s annual meeting.
Norton called on Cuomo to address the food-to-food bank credit in his 2017-18 executive budget proposal.
In his veto message, Cuomo indicated that he will do just that.
“I remain fully committed to addressing hunger and improving access to healthy, locally grown food,” he wrote. “This is exactly why I created the New York State Council on Hunger and Food Policy. I fully support the council’s efforts, and I encourage them to consider how this proposal, as well as other anti-hunger initiatives, can be implemented in a fiscally sound manner.
“I again urge the legislature to join me in taking up this important issue in the annual budget negotiations.”