Butte County rice farmer Milton LaMalfa was honored posthumously at the USA Rice Federation’s Annual Convention in December, being named 2008’s Rice Farmer of the Year. LaMalfa was told of the national distinction in August before his untimely passing two months later.

LaMalfa was recognized for his lifetime of contributions to the rice industry, especially for his leadership in research and water issues. He was a strong supporter of the UC Rice Experiment Station in Richvale and was instrumental in the formation of the Western Canal Water District in the 1980s.

Fellow Richvale rice farmer and lifelong friend Homer Lundberg praised LaMalfa’s character recalling, “I knew Milton for seven decades — going to elementary school, high school and college with him as well as being neighbors and friends all of our lives.

I can’t say enough good about him. He’s one of the really great people I’ve had the pleasure to know. He was clever, had a great sense of humor, he was never mean and had a quiet magnetism that made people enjoy being around him. His honesty, integrity and ethics were beyond reproach. Whatever one says about Milton, it cannot be overstated.”

Accepting the award on LaMalfa’s behalf was his wife of 50 years, Karon, his three children, Doug, Sherry and Lisa and two of his seven grandchildren.

Noting his relationship and lessons from his father, his son Doug added, “Having the opportunity to farm with my Dad since I was very young on our five-generation farm was a very rewarding experience. As a boy, I rode along learning irrigation techniques from him including our complex system of lift pumps, dams, wells and equipment to efficiently move water over many acres of rice.”

Relating how his father’s lessons impacted far beyond the farm, the former assemblyman continued, “His way of calmly assessing what needed to be done, short term and long term, to try new things but not jumping in recklessly, and to not cut corners in our farming practices, was a standard that we will always hold dear. It has helped me in all aspects of my life whether on the farm, raising a family or under the Capitol dome. I could always count on his support and guiding influence.”