Former Rep. Charlie Stenholm of Texas and Cecil Miller, a longtime Farm Bureau president in Arizona have been awarded American Farm Bureau highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award. The award was announced during the opening general session at the 88th AFBF annual meeting.

Stenholm, the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee during consideration of the current farm bill, has been actively involved in agriculture all his life. Stenholm was nominated by Texas Farm Bureau for “his expertise in agriculture, forged as a farmer, teacher and agricultural association executive, which was so broad and deep that he often counseled fellow members of the House on agricultural matters.”

A primary force in every farm bill since the late 1970s, Stenholm was one-half of a unique partnership with Larry Combest, who was the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and the representative of a neighboring congressional district, during consideration of the 2002 farm bill. Together, they worked in a bipartisan fashion to draft and pass the legislation in place today.

“We thank Charlie Stenholm for his many efforts over the years to lead the charge in Congress on issues vital to the nation’s farmers and ranchers,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said, citing Stenholm’s long record of legislative achievements spanning his 25-year career in the House.

Stenholm and his wife, Cindy, remain active in farm matters, and Charlie assists his son on the family’s cotton, wheat and cattle farm near Stamford, in western Texas, and working as a consultant on agricultural issues and other matters at Olsson, Frank and Weeda in a Washington, D.C., law firm.

Strong leadership

Cecil Miller, also a past vice president of the American Farm Bureau, was commended by Stallman for his “strong leadership,” particularly on issues important to Arizona and the Southwest.

Miller’s lifelong involvement in agriculture includes raising cotton, cattle, grain and alfalfa, and serving Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations in a variety of leadership capacities since the 1960s. For 20 years, he was the president of Arizona Farm Bureau, which nominated him for the award.

He became known for his knowledge of agricultural labor, trade, water and property rights issues, among others. In the early 1970s he led an agricultural coalition to craft Arizona’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act and defeat the United Farm Workers’ attempts to unionize.

Miller also has advised several Arizona governors on land and water use issues and other matters relating to agriculture. The University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award for his involvement with that institution. Miller, today, is an investor and adviser in a farming venture with his son and daughter-in-law.

AFBF established the DSA to honor individuals who have devoted their careers to serving farming and ranching and who continue to show concern for the agricultural industry.