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The Times
  • Schumer touts venison tax credit for hunters

  • U.S. Senator Charles Schumer on Monday at the Ilion Fish and Game Club continued to push for legislation that would use tax breaks to encourage hunters to donate meat to programs that provide food to those in need.

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  • U.S. Senator Charles Schumer on Monday at the Ilion Fish and Game Club continued to push for legislation that would use tax breaks to encourage hunters to donate meat to programs that provide food to those in need.
    The legislation would allow hunters to deduct from their taxes any cost associated with processing the venison they donate.
    Processors participating in venison donation programs also stand to benefit, as the legislation makes all processing income they receive from charities — or the state — tax exempt, according to Schumer.
    Officials from area food pantries, the Rescue Mission and the Food Bank of Central New York attended the press conference to show support for the legislation.
    Representing some of the agencies that accept venison meat for food distribution programs, the officials said they looked at the proposal as offering a much-needed incentive for hunters that may be reluctant to make donations.
    The need for donations continues to climb, however, as the number of meals served to locally steadily increases.
    Lydia Sexton, of Catholic Charities of Herkimer County, said, over 500,000 meals had been donated by her organization in the county this year, and the requests for assistance continue to increase.
    Schumer hopes his legislation will address the main issue limiting venison donations: the cost associated with processing the meat.
    Peter J. Ricardo, director of special nutrition projects at the food bank, said his organization — which provides food to pantries throughout the region and Herkimer County — has seen its contribution towards processing costs go from zero percent to 100 percent over the past five years.
    Cuts in state funding to the Venison Donation Coalition, an organization that pays certified butchers to process meat that is donated to anti-hunger programs, are the main cause of changes in the amount paid by the food bank.
    Schumer said the VDC is in danger of going under because of the funding cuts. The organization up until two years ago received $100,000 per year from the state, according to Schumer, and funding dipped to $75,000 last year and then to $21,000 this year.
    With organizations such as VDC struggling, the cost of processing has falls to the hunters, and in a difficult economy the decision to donate is made even more difficult.
    The Rev. Bill Dodge, executive director of the Rescue Mission of Utica, said donations — from ready-to-eat items to processed venison — play a large role in providing hundreds of meals a day through the rescue mission’s various services and outreach programs.
    But in order to include venison, Dodge said strict health and agriculture guidelines and certification must be followed, making some hunters simply say making a donation is unaffordable or too much of a hassle.
    While unable to provide the legislation’s cost, as the bill is still being considered, Schumer said he is confident the tax breaks will be offset by benefits to the state’s economy and cost avoidance created by more donations.
    Page 2 of 2 - An average of nearly 700,000 New York state hunters and 50,000 out-of-state hunters contribute over $1.5 billion annually to the state’s economy and supports thousands of jobs, Schumer said.
    The legislation should help grow New York state’s hunting industry, which is fourth biggest for a state behind Texas, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Schumer said.
    Schumer plans to add the legislation to the year-end Tax Extenders bill, hoping to be passed before the end of December, according to Schumer’s office.

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