SALEM — Oregon State Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, hosted the Capitol’s first ever “Spud Day” March 2 in Salem to commemorate the donation of 33 tons of potatoes and 500 pounds of onions to the 2015 Governor’s Food Drive.

The produce was donated by Farmers Ending Hunger, an association of Eastern Oregon farms that give a portion of their harvest every month to the Oregon Food Bank.

As a legislator, Hansell said his focus is to make sure local farmers and ranchers have the support they need to thrive.

“Not only does Oregon agriculture feed Oregon citizens, it is our second-largest export around the world,” Hansell said in a press release. “The more access to crucial resources like water our agricultural producers have, the stronger role they can play in Oregon’s economy.”

In 2013, 35,000 Oregon farms operated on 16.5 million acres. Potatoes and onions were the state’s seventh- and eighth-top commodities, respectively, during that year. Oregon also produces 27 percent of all U.S. onions each year.

Sen. Hansell was joined by Gov. Kate Brown, Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem, during the celebration. Every senator on the Senate floor received a 5-pound bag of potatoes from Umatilla County farms.

The 2015 Governor’s Food Drive is dedicated to former Gov. Vic Atiyeh, who died on July 20, 2014. Sen. Winters said they started the Oregon Food Share, which later became the Governor’s Food Drive, when she served as ombudsman for Atiyeh in 1979. Since then, it has raised the equivalent of 70 million pounds of food for Oregon families.

“Gov. Atiyeh then asked every state agency and the general public to help with feeding the hungry in Oregon, and I’m proud that we’re still honoring that tradition 36 years later,” Winters said.

Umatilla County farms have already earned quite the national profile. Bud-Rich Potato, of Hermiston, is the national supplier of foil-wrapped baked potatoes for Wendy’s restaurants. River Point Farms, also of Hermiston, supplies all red onions for Subway sandwiches, while Hale Farms on Butter Creek grows potatoes that go from harvest to McDonald’s french fries in just two hours.

For more information or to donate to Farmers Ending Hunger, visit www.farmersendinghunger.com.

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