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Red Cross seeks gifts of grain

By Staff | Sep 27, 2014

A new fund-raising program by the American Red Cross Serving Greater Iowa will be familiar to farmers and will provide needed funds to assist Iowans, especially those in rural areas, in times of emergencies and natural disasters.

Called Gifts of Grain, the program allows farmers to donate any number of bushels of corn, soybeans or other traded commodities that can be converted into cash designated for the Red Cross.

According to Bryce Sitter, coordinator for the Iowa program, volunteer Tawnta Staten, of Webster City, contacted more than 600 Iowa cooperatives to assist with the program. Sitter said about 570 of the co-ops have agreed to be participate.

The program works when a farmer contacts a participating cooperative and indicates they want a specified number of bushels of gain donated to the American Red Cross Serving Greater Iowa.

The co-op takes possession of the grain and transfers the value of that grain, based on that’s cash sales to the Red Cross.

Sitter said the Red Cross was successful with a short-term project like this with 19 cooperatives in Nebraska to send funds to assist the March 2001 tsunami victims in Japan.

Sitter said he believes Gifts of Grain, as a long-term fund-raiser within Iowa, will give the Red Cross more resources to respond to natural disasters and family relief in emergencies.

These donations will be used in the Iowa ARC in five areas – disaster relief, supporting America’s military families, lifesaving blood services, health and safety services and international services.

“We are responding to tornadoes and floods in Iowa,” Sitter said. In addition, the Red Cross assisted Iowa families in 500 house fires last year alone.

The organization provides short-term housing, food and clothing for affected families with pre-paid debit cards.

Those who need longer term assistance are referred to other agencies better suited to meeting those needs, he said.

“The biggest thing is,” Sitter said, “that we need something in place for people who want to make a contribution.

“We’ll accept any marketable grain with monetary value.”

Sitter said the ARC’s national organization will be watching Iowa’s progress with the Gifts of Grain project.

“If it works here,” he said, “it could work in other (rural) regions with tobacco, cotton or rice.”

Tawnta said the program could be extended in the future to livestock donations or used farm machinery.

“Farmers can benefit tax-wise, too,” she said. “We cannot give out tax advice, but farmers should consult with their tax preparers to see how they can benefit from the donations.”

According to Marc Lovell, a University of Illinois ag economist, tax benefits include:

A). The value of the donated crops is not included on Schedule F.

B). Production costs can be deducted on Schedule F for donated grain.

C). There is no state or federal income tax paid on the value of the donated grain.

D). There is no self-employment tax paid on the value of the donated grain.

E). Yield records are not affected by the donation.

In the past, similar grain donations have benefited short-term programs for 4-H, FFA and local churches, Staten said.

“This program gives the Red Cross a rural reach.”

The response to the Red Cross’ program, Staten said, was overwhelmingly positive from cooperatives. She predicted that the number of participating co-ops will grow to more than 600 by the end of September.

“For every dollar we raise under blue skies,” she said, “we save $4 under gray skies.

“It will allow the Red Cross to buy supplies in bulk in advance of anticipated emergencies.”

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