HARRISBURG — Larry Freeman heard from enough customers to think about making his butcher shop part of a long-running program that encourages hunters to donate deer for the needy.
An increase this year in the amount he receives for each deer made it easier for Freeman, who operates KP Processing near Harrisburg, to become one of about 120 meat processors in the state providing venison to food banks under the Share the Harvest program.
SHARE THE HARVEST IN BOONE COUNTY
- Crane's Meat Processing, Ashland: Free processing for hunters who donate.
- KP Processing, Harrisburg: $5 cost for hunters who donate.
- Tunes's Locker Plant, Centralia: $15 cost for hunters who donate.
- Wolf Deer Processing, Centralia: Free processing to hunters who donate.
“It’s a good deal all around,” Freeman said. “And the money doesn’t hurt either. It's a big deal — hunters pay a lot of money on just the equipment to go hunting.”
Share the Harvest helps cover the processing costs of donating venison. A total of 2.1 million pounds of venison have been donated since the program began in 1992, said Joe Jerek, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
This year, the Conservation Federation of Missouri will reimburse certified local meat processors $60 per donated deer — a $15 increase from 2009.
At KP Processing, Freeman charges $65 to process a deer. After receiving $60 from the Conservation Federation, $5 is left for the hunter to pay.
Freeman has processed seven deer donated this year by archery hunters.
Last year, about 250,000 pounds of venison donated through the program provided a healthy source of protein to families that otherwise lack the resources to buy such foods, said Matt Gaunt, director of development for the Conservation Federation of Missouri.
Dave Murphy, executive director of the Conservation Federation, said Share the Harvest has the capacity to reimburse deer processors a record 10,000 donated deer this season.
That is 5,300 more than in 2009, Gaunt said. The higher reimbursements create more incentive for hunters to donate their deer.
If the program makes the 10,000 deer mark, a total of 2.4 million individual servings of venison would be available, Gaunt said.
"We're solely dependent on the generosity of hunters," he said.
While Share the Harvest is designed to lessen the financial burden for hunters wishing to donate, Murphy said, private charities sometimes pay the remainder of the costs.
Bill Crane, owner of Crane’s Meat Processing south of Columbia, aims to process 150 donated deer this year.
Crane accepts the $60 from the Conservation Federation. Safari Club International, a conservation organization, covers the remaining $5. Hunters, who pay nothing, simply drop off the deer at Crane's business and fill out a donation form.
Crane has processed 25 deer for the program since the start of bow season.
Ben Wolf, owner of Wolf Deer Processing near Centralia, said his business will cover the remaining $5 after the Conservation Federation donation. He has processed eight deer from bow season kills and this past weekend's youth firearms hunt.
Share the Harvest is able to pay the increased reimbursements for two years after receiving $277,000 in tax credits from the Department of Economic Development in 2009, Gaunt said.
"It's not like we have $277,000," Murphy said. "We have to negotiate those credits to get the money."
For example, Gaunt said if a donor wanted to make a $10,000 donation to the program, they would deliver that amount to the Conservation Federation.
From there, he said, the person would fill out an application for tax credits from the Department of Economic Development based on the amount donated to the Conservation Federation.
Because the tax credits the federation received are basically rated at 70 percent of the donation, the donor would receive $7,000 back in tax credits for payment toward state tax obligations. The entire amount donated would qualify as a charitable donation and is tax deductible.
The Conservation Federation would receive all $10,000 donated and put it toward the reimbursements, Gaunt said.
Murphy said about $20,000 of the credits are left over from the $277,000 it received from the Department of Economic Development. The excess credits will then be added to the tax credits three years from now.
The federation also received $350,000 for Share the Harvest earlier this year from the Missouri Association of Food Banks, Murphy said. The donation helped to secure the reimbursements.
Private support is also provided by Bass Pro Shops, Drury Hotels, Midway USA, Enterprise Leasing, Wells Fargo, Pyramid Home Health Services and Shelter Insurance, Gaunt said.
Murphy said the Conservation Federation's role is to raise money, negotiate a price per donated deer and negotiate the number of deer each meat processor can process.