Just as the California state Legislature fights for its paychecks, another food-related bill fights to make it through committee in the Senate after passing unanimously through the Assembly.
AB 152, introduced by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, is intended to give relief to the state's straining food banks through a combination of federal funds and tax breaks for farmers who donate fresh produce. (A similar tax credit was on the books from 1989 to 1991, but after the legislator who backed it left office, it was overturned.) The state estimates that the combination of programs and tax credits might cost the state $300,000 in 2011-'12 and then $800,000 a year after that. SFoodie called Fuentes to learn more about the bill.
SFoodie: What's the status of AB 152 now?
Fuentes: It has been triple-referred in the Senate [meaning it must pass three committees to make it to a general vote], which is not great news. But I think it's a great bill. In the Assembly, it passed 76-0, which means everybody who was there that day supported it.
The bill actually does three things. The first is the easy one: It gives
a 10 percent tax credit to California farmers for the cost of food that
they donate to California food banks -- the idea is to harvest fruits
and vegetables that wouldn't be harvested because the season is over.
The second thing is that it allows for the state to receive
contributions from federal government so they can purchase California
food for California food banks. And the third is to remove some
necessary administrative barriers faced by the Department of Public
Health's programs in obesity prevention.
If the first tax credit law lasted only two years, do you see this as a temporary measure?
I'm hoping to make it permanent. We know that, through talking to the
agriculture industry, there aren't enough monetary reasons for them to
harvest [fruits and vegetables] left over in the fields. Given that
there are so many families going without food, we thought it would be a
good time to give them an incentive. The food banks are nonprofits, and
they don't have enough participation. We're trying to jump-start
awareness about these problems, fortify the [emergency food
distribution] infrastructure, and create a culture where we don't have
to use a tax credit to get the agriculture industry to see donating food
as a good thing.
The California State Association of Food Banks has sent out an action alert and FAQ
asking people to help the bill make it through the Senate. Fuentes
recommends that voters interested in seeing AB152 make it to the Senate
floor for a vote contact state Senator Darrell Steinberg, chair of the Senate Rules Committee, to streamline the process by referring the bill to fewer committees.