PORTLAND, Ore. -

Lawmakers and others gathered at the Oregon Food Bank in Portland on Thursday for Gov. John Kitzhaber's signing of Senate Bill 1541, legislation that provides tax relief to farmers making donations to food banks and other hunger relief organizations.

The bill reinstates and increases the previous 10 percent crop donation tax credit, which expired in 2011, to provide to farmers a new 15 percent tax credit on the wholesale price of their donation.

"The reinstatement of the crop donation tax credit will benefit Oregon farmers and families across the state," said House Republican Leader Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte).

"Hunger is not a partisan issue, and I thank my colleagues in the Legislature, as well as the governor, for working together to recognize the efforts of the farming community in their fight to help their neighbors who are facing hunger."

According to the Oregon Food Bank, more than 260,000 Oregonians, including children, the disabled and elderly, rely on an emergency food source for their meals.

With a 5 percent increase over the previous tax credit that expired in 2011, Thursday's bill signing is encouraging news to farmers who wish to donate more to hunger relief organizations.

"These donations to Oregon food banks and hunger relief organizations help feed thousands," said Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn), a primary House sponsor of SB 1541. "The crop donation tax credit will allow farmers to comfortably increase their donation amounts to organizations like the Oregon Food Bank, which distributes food to 20 regional food banks across Oregon."

"Oregon's farmers are a cornerstone of the state's economy but also play a vital role in the fight against hunger in our state," said Rep. Bill Kennemer (R-Canby). "Today's bill signing is a great step forward for our farmers and we should continue to put forth legislation that provides additional support for those seeking to help communities in need."

"I have strongly supported the passage of this bill," said Rep. Mark Johnson (R-Hood River). "This donation tax credit will benefit the fruit industry in my district and make wonderful surplus produce available to children and residents across our state. I will continue to support efforts to increase this tax credit to encourage the donation of greater amounts of locally sourced produce for Oregonians."

Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) said he plans to continue working to expand the tax credit to 30 percent to provide a greater incentive to farmers to help feed the hungry. 

"I'm enthusiastic, as I feel this is taking us in the right direction," said Rep. Bentz. "This will be a useful pilot project that can show us a way to combat hunger in a more efficient and effective manner." 

Officials say the crop donation tax credit is a cost-effective measure to help provide for those in need. To view a graphic of the cost benefits of the crop donation tax credit program, click here.