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De la Garza honored for lifetime service to agriculture

Former Congressman Eligio “Kika” de la Garza was honored recently with the Texas Agricultural Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award was presented to de la Garza at a ceremony in Austin hosted by the Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership Alumni, the Texas A&M System, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Farm Credit System.

A native of Hidalgo County in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, de la Garza spent 12 years in the Texas House of Representatives and served 32 years as a U.S. Congressman before retiring in 1997.

In presenting the award to de la Garza, Dr. Ed Smith, director of AgriLife Extension, noted that in 1982 de la Garza became the first Hispanic to chair a standing committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“As chairman of the Committee on Agriculture,” Smith said, “it was soon clear that with Congressman de la Garza at the helm, the Texas agriculture industry would thrive.”

Smith cited a long list of initiatives led by de la Garza that had a positive impact on agriculture and the country, including streamlining the U. S. Department of Agriculture, helping farmers receive price and income protection, expanding agricultural exports, strengthening rural development, improving food and pesticide safety, and making credit more affordable for agricultural producers.

Smith noted that the Texas A&M System was particularly indebted to de la Garza for his instrumental role in obtaining support for research grants to improve alternative crops for arid lands, wool and mohair quality, livestock and dairy policy, and goat and honeybee production.

Grants involved entities such as the International Goat Research Center at Prairie View A&M University, the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, the U. S. Department of Agriculture Subtropical Agricultural Research Laboratory at Weslaco and Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

“Upon his retirement in 1997,” Smith said, “the Texas agriculture industry lost one of its foremost advocates."

De la Garza and his wife, Lucille, live in McAllen.

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