U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is proposing a tax break for deer hunters who donate venison to food pantries, and the idea is gathering support.
U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY) last week also supported the legislation, which Schumer touted as a way to help hungry families while boosting the hunting industry in upstate New York, where the number of meals served in food programs is steadily increasing.
The plan would allow hunters to deduct the cost of having the deer processed for donation. The cost can be as high as $80, which deters some from giving the meat away. Tax incentives would also be available for processors that work through the Venison Donation Coalition and other nonprofits that pay for the processing costs and deliver the meat to the needy. A typical deer provides about 160 servings, the Times Union of Albany reported.
"Although charitable donations of canned goods and other foods are already deductible under federal tax laws, that kind of tax benefit has not been applied to the cost of professionally processing game for donation," the newspaper reported.
Schumer said the legislation would also help combat overpopulation of deer. He called it "a win for our hunters, a win for the hungry, a win for our state economy and a win for conservation." Nearly 700,000 state residents and more than 50,000 out-of-staters hunt in New York, contributing more than $1.5 billion to the state's economy every year, he said.
Delaware County Food Bank Coordinator Linda Vausse told the ABC News affiliate in Binghamton that clients of the food pantry at the Methodist Church in Sidney often ask for deer meat. "By having the venison donated, we don't have to purchase so much meat, which is good. We can supply a healthier meal. It's a low-fat meat, so that's even better. It just helps us keep our costs down for the food pantry."
Outdoor Life magazine columnist Doug Howlett, a former National Rifle Association employee, called Schumer, "the antithesis to all the NRA stands for and one of its most vocal critics since entering public office." However, he applauded the move. "I would encourage every legislator out there to follow Schumer's lead (on this issue) and work to support efforts to get more hunter-generated meat to the families that can use it."
Schumer hopes to add his measure to a tax bill the Senate is expected to take up this month.