United States Senator Charles Schumer recently 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.
Schumer plans to 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 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation 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 said his efforts will help address the fact that venison donation programs have seen their funding levels decimated in recent years.
According to the NYS DEC's Bureau of Wildlife, there were more than 243,000 deer taken in New York State in 2012, an increase of 6 percent from the previous year. Of those deer, 1,467 were taken in Chautauqua County. For Cattaraugus County, that number is 8,931 and for Erie County, it is 7,998.
Despite these numbers, deer populations are still above suitable levels in 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 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," Schumer said. "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 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. It would also allow more venison to go to charity per dollar, and allow more processors to take part.
Organizations 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 since the recession.
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. Hunting is also a critical tool in managing overcrowded deer populations.
With so many deer roaming freely, 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.