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Grant could help Wisconsin farmers donate extra produce

MADISON — A proposed grant could make it less costly for Wisconsin farmers to harvest and transport leftover produce to food banks.

Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa is one of the lawmakers behind legislation that would create a $250,000 grant through the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Wisconsin Public Radio reported .

Local farmer Paul Miller said he’s been donating extra carrots from his fields to area food banks for the last seven years. But Miller said it costs him several thousand dollars to harvest and transport the vegetables.

WEST BEND, WI – SEPTEMBER 29: Robert Roden harvests a soy bean field on the Rob-N-Cin farm on September 29, 2010 in West Bend, Wisconsin. The farm has roughly 400 head of cattle and about 1,800 acres of crop land, and has diversified with a harvest around 1,800 acres of corn, soy and alfalfa that helps maintain any short comings that the milk industry may bring. The Rodens like many other dairy farmers are still struggling to recover from last year’s devastating milk prices that were nearly $5 dollars per 100 weight bellow the number needed to break even for sales. The dairy industry in Wisconsin is a huge integral cog in the state economic wheel that brings in roughly 26 billion dollars annually and is more important to the state then Citrus is to Florida and potatoes are to Idaho combined. It is stated that roughly each dairy cow in Wisconsin brings in about $16,000 of economic activity outside of the farm. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

The high cost of harvesting and transporting produce can be a barrier that stops farmers from donating extra produce, said David Lee, the executive director of Feeding Wisconsin.

“We think of organizations donating as donating for free, whereas there’s actually sort of small marginal costs, particularly for farmers, to run a combine or a harvester for an extra week,” Lee said.

The grant would go to a single statewide network of food banks in order to oversee distribution to food banks and farms.

“To have one statewide group be able to distribute to all food banks around the state, you really do have to build up that distribution network, otherwise it becomes unmanageable,” Krug said. “So, it’s really for efficiency purposes.”

The funds could go toward harvesting, packaging and transporting donated produce.

“To have the state help the anti-hunger community and food bank community in our state to source and distribute more fresh processed nutritious food for the nearly 700,000 Wisconsinites who are food insecure, I think is super exciting and we are excited to support it,” Lee said.

Krug said he hopes to vote on the measure next month