Give Ontario farmers tax breaks for donations to food banks
TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials – Everyone wins if Ontario adopts a Progressive Conservative proposal to give farmers tax breaks for donating to food banks.
Jul 15 2013.
Sometimes, the solutions are simple and the hard part is getting others onside. But however counterintuitive, that doesn’t seem to be the case at Queen’s Park, the bastion of polarity on all issues except, it seems, feeding the hungry through the Local Food Act. How encouraging.
The idea is a good one and it belongs to the Progressive Conservatives, who want to change the law so Ontario farmers can get tax breaks if they donate unused produce to food banks.
As the Star’s Robert Benzie reports, the Tories say amendments to theLocal Food Act could cost the province $750,000 a year in tax breaks for farmers, but it would redirect some of the 25 million tonnes of vegetables that now end up in landfills to the dinner plates of the hungry. As Conservative MPP Bob Bailey says, “We could fight two problems in our province: hunger and waste.” He’s right — it’s one of those rare win-win ideas.
While dairy, pork, poultry and beef farmers have long given their leftovers to food banks through different programs, the donation of fresh fruit and vegetables is a worthy addition.
After all, many food banks only offer non-perishables, like canned or dry goods. While it’s better than going hungry, that’s certainly not the foundation of a healthy diet. With the Tory plan, leftover produce that is bruised or misshapen will help feed some of the 412,000 Ontarians — including 150,000 children — who use food banks every month. It’s an astounding number.
Now, it could be that parties are trying to ingratiate themselves with rural voters, in this case, farmers who would welcome a tax break. Certainly, the Liberals are trying hard to regain support.
As a result, the farmers’ tax break idea has developed some traction with Premier Kathleen Wynne, who also happens to be the agriculture minister. Wynne seems willing to amend the act, although in offering Liberal support one of her aides couldn’t resist a mild partisan snipe. “After stalling the billfor months in the legislature, we are encouraged the PCs are ready to work with us to increase access, availability and sales of the good things that grow in Ontario.” Still, it’s not quite an insult.
The idea needs some fine-tuning. Bailey suggests a non-refundable tax credit worth 25 per cent of the wholesale food value for farmers who donate. And NDP MPP John Vanthof (a former dairy farmer) correctly notes that most fresh food needs some kind of preparation, so the food processors have a role to play as well.
With the apparent agreement of all parties, these are minor details to work through. What counts is that Queen’s Park politicians work together so the hungry can benefit from the bounty of farmers’ fields.
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