Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced his push to boost the economic benefits of hunting in Upstate New York and then donating game, like deer and turkey, to anti-hunger programs. Specifically, Schumer will introduce bipartisan legislation that will allow hunters to take a tax deduction for the cost of processing their venison, when the final product is donated. The legislation will also provide a tax benefit to processors who participate in venison donation programs by making all processing income they receive from charities tax exempt. Schumer noted that the NYS DEC recently reported its intentions to encourage participation in the Venison Donation Program and similar programs as a mechanism to encourage deer harvest and foster local use of the deer resource. Schumer noted that his efforts will help address the fact that venison donation programs have seen their funding levels decimated in recent years, and that the amount of donated venison has declined. What's more, Hunters took roughly 243,000 deer in 2012, an increase of 6% from the previous year, but deer populations are still above suitable levels in many sections of the state. Deer overpopulation can have a negative impact on wildlife, farmers, tree growers and homeowners, and are a frequent hazard for motorists. In addition, reducing the population of white-tailed deer, which are the primary host of deer ticks, is an effective strategy for reducing the incidences of Lyme disease in the Hudson Valley and Upstate New York.
"Hunting is not only a great pastime for Upstate New Yorkers, but it is also an engine for economic growth and spurs critical charitable donations to anti-hunger programs," said Schumer. "But while deer hunting in Upstate New York has seen a boost even in the last year, contributions to venison donation programs have declined, and much of that is because processing costs are discouraging donations. This bipartisan legislation, which I hope will be put in place ahead of this year's hunting season, will provide hunters with a reward for donating large game, all while combating overpopulation of deer and helping the hungry at the same time."
Schumer's bipartisan legislation, which he introduced with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK) Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and creates a tax deduction for a hunter that pays to process venison that will eventually be given to a feeding program. This simply means that if a hunter spends money processing the meat, he or she will be able to deduct that amount from his or her taxable income. The legislation also makes tax exempt any income that a processor receives from an anti-hunger not-for-profit. Therefore, if a hunter were to bring in a deer to be processed and donated, and a tax exempt entity paid the processing fee, the processor would not have to pay taxes on that income. This would allow the charity's dollars to go further because the processor could be reimbursed at a lower rate and still achieve the same after-tax income. This would allow more venison to go to charity per dollar, and allow more processors to take part.
Organizations, such as the Venison Donation Coalition in Bath, NY, pay to process game that hunters bring to designated processors, so long as the final product is donated to a feeding program. Schumer said that these organizations are being stretched to the brink and their funding has steadily declined over the years. Donations have also dropped precipitously during since the recession. Schumer's legislation would help these organizations stretch every dollar further.
Here is an example of how an organization like the Venison Donation Coalition would see a benefit Schumer's legislation: A hunter brings a deer for processing to Joe's Processing Center, with the intention of donating the venison to a feeding program. Under current law, the Venison Donation Coalition could pay the processing fee to Joe's Processing Center, and Joe's, in turn would pay a portion of that in taxes to the government. Under Schumer's bill, Joe's wouldn't have to pay the taxes, so the Venison Donation Coalition could pay Joe's a smaller processing fee instead. Joe would see the same end result from the transaction and the Venison Donation Coalition would have saved money.
Schumer's legislation would particularly benefit hunters in New York State where deer hunting is one of the most popular sporting opportunities and a critical component of the state's economy and well-being. Nearly 700,000 New Yorkers and over 50,000 nonresidents hunt in the Empire State contributing over $1.5 billion annually to the state's economy and supporting thousands of jobs. Importantly, hunting is also a critical tool in managing overcrowded deer populations. According to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's' Bureau of Wildlife, there were more than 243,000 deer taken in New York State in 2012. Schumer revealed region by region data for those dear takes:
On the call, Schumer provided a county-by-county break down of the number of deer taken in New York in 2012:
· In the Capital Region, there were 32,579 deer taken in 2012
· In Central New York, there were 36,147 deer taken in 2012
· In the Rochester Finger Lakes Region, there were 54,657 deer taken in 2012
· In the Hudson Valley, there were 23,731 deer taken in 2012
· In Western New York, there were 21,504 deer taken in 2012
· In the Southern Tier, there were 52,911 deer taken in 2012
· In the North Country, there were 25,741 deer taken in 2012.
With so many deer roaming freely in New York, hunters are needed to help maintain healthy herds and minimize the amount of annual deer damage. Every year, overpopulation of deer leads to damaged crops, landscape, and vehicles. Deer contribute to an estimated $250 million worth of damage annually. The effects of deer overpopulation are widespread, significantly impacting New York farming, transportation and safety. Since 2008, there have been an average of 70,000 deer-vehicle collisions every year. Hunters can help minimize these costs by safely and legally managing these wildlife populations to prevent crop and environmental damage.
The donation of venison has become increasingly important and the impact that the hunters have in the fight against hunger has grown. At the same time, the Venison Donation Coalition has seen its funding slashed. In order for these types of programs to continue to flourish, the Venison Donation Coalition, and groups like it need a boost. Individuals can support the Venison Donation Coalition by making a contribution when they purchase a hunting license or by visiting the coalition's website at www.venisondonation.com
In an effort to take some of the burden off of these coalitions and support hunters across the state, Schumer today announced that he introducing legislation to create tax deductions for hunters and processors who donate their game to the hungry.
Schumer's legislation will support hunters, a major economic engine in the state; raise the profile of venison donation programs; provide a reward to hunters and processors for helping their community; and help people in a time of need.