This post was written by FLPC student Sophie DeBode.
The Harvard Law School Food and Policy Clinic (FLPC), the National Gleaning Project, and the Association of Gleaning Organizations announces the release of a Gleaning Guide for Farmers. In the United States, farms account of 21% of all food loss and waste, and much of the food that goes to waste is perfectly safe to eat. At the same time, 38.3 million Americans live in food-insecure households. Gleaning helps address both of these issues by allowing volunteers to step in and rescue nutritious, wholesome produce from farms, preventing it from going to waste and providing nutritious produce to those who may typically find these foods unaffordable and inaccessible. Gleaning has the potential to divert 78,500 tons of food waste and save 2.14 billion gallons of water.
While gleaning offers an efficient opportunity to address the issues of food-insecurity and food waste, many farmers are either unaware of gleaning or are hesitant to allow gleaning. Despite policies by the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) that allow for gleaning, few farmers take advantage of these policies due to a deficit in knowledge around gleaning opportunities—whether the RMA allows gleaning of crops after an insurance claim has been made, when/how gleaning is permitted, and what legal risks exist for farmers.
The RMA has released some guidance in an attempt to address these concerns, however, it has proven insufficient as miscommunication and confusion still exists around gleaning. This guide is intended to fill that gap and serve as a guide for farmers, gleaning organizations, and insurance agencies to provide information on the benefits of gleaning to farmers, when and how farmers are able to allow for gleaning, and to clarify any misunderstandings regarding gleaning and crop insurance, tax incentives, and liabilities. The guide addresses the basics of gleaning, answering six big questions about gleaning: 1) What is gleaning? 2) Why allow gleaning? 3) Does crop insurance allow for gleaning, 4) Can farmers file for an enhanced tax deduction for donated food? 5) Are farmers liable if gleaners get injured on their land? and 6) Are farmers liable if someone gets sick from their crops gleaned from their land?