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The people of Utah are rightfully proud of our long and proud history of philanthropy. Year after year, Utahns give generously to support causes, charities and nonprofits working on a range of issues, from feeding our neighbors in need, to conserving our natural heritage, to helping those with disabilities, funding arts and culture and many other worthy endeavors.

Yet we can do still more, and that's what brings Utah Open Lands, Repertory Dance Theatre, the Nature Conservancy and other diverse nonprofits across Utah together.

Landmark bipartisan legislation is pending in Congress that will multiply the millions of individual acts of generosity happening in Utah and across the country. Known as the America Gives More Act, this bill makes permanent critical tax incentives that promote charitable contributions and enable the nonprofit sector to better serve those most in need.

The legislation encourages small businesses to donate unused food; increases incentives for landowners to conserve land and individuals to make charitable donations through their retirement accounts; and eases administrative burdens on private foundations, enabling them to give more in times of urgent need.

The bill's food donation tax deduction allows small businesses to take the same tax deduction that large companies do when donating to food banks. It would also, for the first time, help farmers to donate fresh produce to hungry families.

This incentive is critical, allowing farmers, producers, processors, and other agricultural donors to provide nutritious food to people experiencing hunger.

Furthermore, the act would not only increase donations to food banks but would critically extend conservation incentives that make the preservation of farm and ranchland possible. This enhanced incentive for land conservation is directly responsible for conserving more than 2 million acres of America's irreplaceable natural outdoor heritage.

One current ranchland project that Utah Open Lands is working to save would benefit from the passage of this act. This property already provides 8,000 to 15,000 pounds of food to families in need as well as providing habitat for over 200 species of migratory birds including habitat for an active bald eagle nest.

The bill's changes to charitable giving from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) will benefit every nonprofit in Utah.

As part of the Repertory Dance Theatre's 50th anniversary, for example, we are implementing a planned giving program with our patrons and supporters. This change in the law will allow individuals to roll over their IRAs directly to nonprofits without incurring a tax penalty. A change that will benefit community foundations, social service programs, religious organizations, arts and culture institutions, schools and health care providers.

As organizations that collectively work to address Utah's greatest needs, we cannot overstate the impact that increases in voluntary giving would have on priorities such as education, conservation of open spaces and hunger relief. Charitable giving is directly responsible for the continued viability of our organizations.

The citizens of Utah all benefit from these individual acts of kindness and Congress should encourage them in every possible way. The America Gives More Act makes these incentives permanent and would mark one of the biggest victories for charitable giving in decades.

Sen. Orrin Hatch is a long-time champion of charities and their widely varied missions across our state. We applaud heartily his diligent efforts to enact this bill. Every church, charity and nonprofit in Utah, and tens of thousands of our state's most needy residents, need to know of his leadership.

We are counting on Sens. Hatch and Mike Lee working with their colleagues to achieve this major step for our state.

Wendy Fisher is executive director of Utah Open Lands. Linda C. Smith is executive/artistic director of Repertory Dance Theatre. Dave Livermore is Utah state director of The Nature Conservancy.