DENVER – Farmers would get a tax break, and needy people would get healthful food thanks to a bill advanced by a Durango legislator Monday.
Rep. Mike McLachlan’s bill was an easy sell to the House Agriculture Committee, which passed it on a 12-0 vote. McLachlan, a Democrat, is sponsoring House Bill 1119 with Republican Rep. Tim Dore of Elizabeth.
“It’s rare in the House of Representatives when you can do something that will benefit both sides of the equation. We will allow farmers and producers of food to gain a favorable tax position. And also, we will feed people who need it,” McLachlan said.
The bill allows farmers and ranchers to get a state tax credit of up to $5,000 for food they donate to hunger-relief organizations. The bill is limited to professional agriculture producers who submit a form to the Internal Revenue Service certifying they earn farm income.
Food producers already get a federal-tax benefit from donating food. Colorado hasn’t offered an additional credit since 1986.
Kathy Underhill, executive director of Hunger Free Colorado, said 800,000 Coloradans suffer from some form of food hardship.
She used to run a food pantry and remembers one woman’s reaction on a rare day when the pantry had fresh fruit.
“We had some fresh plums, and she literally got teary-eyed. She said, ‘It’s been years since I’ve had a plum,’” Underhill said. “It’s something we take for granted.”
No one spoke out against the bill at Monday’s hearing. It now goes to the House Finance Committee.
If the bill passes, the tax credits would take effect in 2015.