B.C. food banks desperate for tax legislation to boost farmer donations
25% tax credit was part of provincial Liberals' election campaign
Food banks in B.C. are desperately waiting on the provincial government to deliver on a promise to provide a tax credit that would make it much easier for farmers to donate food directly to them.
It would provide a 25 per cent tax receipt to farmers and food producers that donate edibles to one of the province's 95 food banks.
"It is absolutely vital that these food banks are able to receive this kind of product," said Laura Lansink, executive director of Foodbanks BC. "And at the same time we have farmers and food producers who are simply disposing of food that we could be receiving."
The promise by the BC Liberals was made as part of their 2013 campaign and seeks to match a similar program which has been in place in Ontario since that year.
The credit is worth 25 per cent of the fair market value of the agricultural products donated and can be claimed for donations made on or after Jan. 1 of each year.
Looking at Ontario
"[It's a] a very good tax credit that Ontario's doing," said B.C. Agricultural Minister Norm Letnick. "We're looking at Ontario as a model to emulate here in British Columbia."
Letnick said the tax credit is part of his mandate but the actual legislation would be enacted by the Ministry of Finance.
While Letnick says he is committed to seeing the tool "come to fruition" as part of the 2017 budget, he said more lobbying is needed from food banks.
"And they're anxious waiting to see that this commitment is fulfilled," he said. "I would encourage all of them when the finance committee goes around the province consulting on next year's budget that maybe they should make a presentation to the finance committee to support this."
Lansink says she and her member food banks will do everything they can to bring the tax credit into effect, describing the demand on food banks as overwhelming.
"They are way too busy. They are often running out of resources." she said. "Every month in British Columbia close to 100,000 people need to turn to a food bank and of those one out of every three is a child."
Farmers in Ontario appear to have embraced the legislation there.
Earlier this year the Chicken Farmers of Ontario committed to donating up to 100,000 fresh chickens every year to food banks at an estimated retail value of $1 million.
"[I] would love to see something like that happen here in B.C.," said Lansink. "I think once the tax credit is passed and the food producers, growers here in B.C. understand what that can mean and how this can help them plus help the people who are hungry in our province."
Letnick won't say how much the program would cost the government or any exact details of how it would work in B.C. but that his ministry is working with finance to make it happen.