by Kevin Gawley, Contributor
Tons of fresh, locally grown fruits and veggies are donated to the Abbotsford Food Bank every year. That tonnage may soon increase, thanks to a new provision announced this week by the B.C. Liberals in their 2016 budget.
A new 25 per cent income tax credit for farmers who donate to registered charities could make it more affordable for them to give away excess produce, benefitting organizations such as the Abbotsford Food Bank.
The market value of all food donated from yesterday onward may be claimed on the farmer’s 2016 tax return. This means a grower who gives away $1,000 worth of potatoes will pay $250 less in income tax.
Kayla Feenstra picks up produce from farms around Abbotsford for the food bank, which last year received more than 22,000 kilograms of food with an estimated value of $50,000 from local farmers. The new credit would put an additional $12,500 in the pockets of Abbotsford farmers, if the same is donated this year.
Feenstra said that before implementing the pick-up program in 2013, few donations were received from farms.
“Farmers are typically pretty busy so they don’t have time to drive to the food bank,” said Feenstra, who thinks the new tax credit will encourage farmers to donate, because it will make the extra sorting, moving and packing work worth their time.
“They’ve been absolutely incredible,” she said.
Owner Loren Taves said he donates “tons” of fruits and vegetables almost every week, especially during the summer. The dollar value of the donations he made last year was “in the thousands,” he said.
Taves said the credit won’t affect the amount he donates, as he already gives as much as possible.
Arina Onninks, the owner of Onnink’s Blueberry Farm in Abbotsford, said she donates berries to a church that makes breakfast for the homeless. She also contributes fruit to an organization that rehabilitates birds, the Abbotsford Airshow, and others.
She is not concerned about whether she will get a special tax credit, however.
“I think a farm should do that anyway. When you live in a community, you have to look after your community,” she said.
Onninks is particularly happy to hear of another aspect of the B.C. budget – a $2 million increase in funding for the B.C. Buy Local Program, an initiative that campaigns to encourage people to buy locally produced food.
“People need to know we need to support our local economy,” she said. “It gives jobs, it’s good for business, it makes people know where the food is grown and how it is grown.”
Educating British Columbians on how their food is grown may be needed more than some would expect. Onninks tells a story of an encounter she had at a recent trade show in Vancouver, when someone asked her how blueberries were made.
“Who made the berries?’ I said, ‘God!’
“They looked at me and said: ‘God?’ And I said, ‘Yeah!’ They thought they were made by machines.”