Gleaning Bill to Benefit Farmers

EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon farmers can do a number of things with surplus crops. One option is donating them to gleaners. They come harvest the extra crops and distribute it to low-income families.

Right now farmers don’t get any incentive for donating to gleaners, but a new bill could change that.

Betty Briggs, of Gleaner with Linn Benton Food Share, is never disappointed with the crops at Herman Hemke’s farm. Not just because of the crop quality, but because he donates everything basically for free.

“Herman will call us, and he will tell us he has crops for us to glean, like these carrots that are in the field now,” Briggs said.

Herman is one of many farmers who donate their post-harvest extras or surplus crops to gleaning groups. Currently, farmers get no compensation for their donations, but that could change with Senate Bill 430.

“The gas, the machinery, the storage, the work, the planting, all of that is coming out of their pockets, so anything that we can do to minimize that cost is something we have to do,” said Deb McGeorge, Food for Lane County Manager.

There was an old incentive that only gave farmers a 10-percent tax deduction. This new bill would subtract 100 percent of the market value of their crop donation from their income taxes.

“It’s going to help us with farmers we already work with. It’s going to help us with farmers we’ve never had a relationship with before,” McGeorge said.

Most of the farmers who currently work with gleaners, like Herman, aren’t worried about the tax credit for their crops.

“I can plow it under and it’ll be gone, but it’s nice to be able to give back to the community,” Herman said.

But it doesn’t mean this legislation wouldn’t help farmers help others.

“It is expensive. Margins are minimal, and so I can imagine that for a lot of farmers this would help with their bottom line,” Herman said.

It would also help continue recycling this much needed food to hungry families across the state.

“They are 100 percent deserving of this,” Briggs said.

Gleaners will gather in Salem on Tuesday to support the legislation but also celebrate 40 years of gleaning in the state of Oregon.

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