by Jan Dixon
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas recently received its first commodities gift transaction — a gift of soybeans.
The gift was made by Brian Schmidt, a longtime parishioner from St. Joseph Parish in Olpe.
Schmidt grew up in a farming family, went to college and became a certified public accountant.
Now, some 35 years later and thanks to help from his family, he has recently fulfilled his dream of becoming a full-time farmer/rancher.
And he found a new and convenient way to fulfill his monetary pledge to the archdiocese.
Schmidt was familiar with donating grain commodities because of his experience as a CPA and had actually introduced the program to his parish about 20 years ago.
“We’ve been using the transfer of grain program here at St. Joseph’s in Olpe for quite a while,” said Schmidt. “But this was my first [personal] donation of crops to the archdiocese.”
There had been a program to accept grain commodities in the past, but it wasn’t being used effectively. But a change in the tax laws, which limit the ability of many taxpayers to deduct their charitable donations, has made the option more attractive.
“As we developed the One Faith, One Family, One Future in Christ campaign, it seemed like a wonderful opportunity for farmers in our archdiocese to make gifts of grain commodities,” said Lesle Knop, archdiocesan director of stewardship.
Archdiocesan foundation board member Joe Bunck, a parishioner of St. Leo Parish in Horton and a farmer, promoted the program earlier this year at a monthly meeting as a beneficial way for farmers to donate or fulfill pledges. He helped the archdiocese draft a policy for the acceptance of grain commodities.
“It’s a painless way for us to fulfill our Catholic responsibility of supporting the church while benefiting from applicable, legal tax strategies,” he said.
Tax laws allow farmers to give part of their crop production to charity. Gifting the grain directly lets a farmer avoid the sale of the commodity as income, while the production costs may still be deductible. Reducing taxable income reduces income taxes as well.
(The farmer can’t deduct the gift as a charitable contribution because it was not taxed as income.)
So how does grain donation work? When farmers decide to donate a commodity, they notify the elevators they use and the recipient charity creates an account there. The farmer delivers the commodity to the elevator. The commodity is placed on the charity’s account, and the charity receives the money after they sell the commodity. The farmer does not direct the sale of the commodity.
“Because the farmer does not declare the grain as income and they save tax, they have the ability to make a bigger gift,” said Schmidt.
The donor can designate to a specific fund within the archdiocese, thereby determining how the charitable donation is to be used.
For example, it might be designated for Call to Share, or One Faith, One Family, One Future, or for the benefit of the vocation office. The archdiocese can help the farmer with the process but cannot give tax advice.
“There is a specific way to do it to be sure it’s done right,” Schmidt said. He recommended that anyone wanting to donate grain seek input from their tax adviser.
Both the Schmidt and the Bunck families hope to continue to participate in the Gift of Grain program as a way to honor their stewardship pledges.
“I think the greatest benefit of this program is that the archdiocese benefits, the farmer benefits and the ministry of the church continues in a very positive way,” Knop said.