Feed The Hungry

Members of the Western Rice Belt Conference committee load bags of rice to be delivered to the Central Texas Food Bank as part of a donation made in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured (l-r) is Tommy Turner, Heath Bush, Daniel Berglund, Vivian Spanihel and Corrie Bowen. 

The Central Texas Food Bank of Austin recently received an 11,000 pound donation of Texas rice, which will be used to feed those in need, on behalf of the Western Rice Belt Production Conference committee in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The donation was purchased with funds collected for the 2021 Western Rice Belt Production Conference that were not needed after event officials decided to hold the event virtually due to the pandemic. Money that would have been used to obtain an event location and provide attendees with meals were instead used for the donation.

“COVID-19 has certainly drawn more attention to food security, and the enormous infrastructure and workforce responsible for creating a safe and reliable food supply,” AgriLife Extension Agent Corrie Bowen said via a press release. “This was a great opportunity to bring rice to the table to our friends in Austin.”

The donation was distributed to the food bank in time for Christmas.

Conference committee members consist of ag industry members from Wharton, Colorado and Matagorda counties, with Texas Rice Council President Tommy Turner living in the Austin area, according to an article from the Texas Farm Bureau.

“We utilize the same resource, the Colorado River, for irrigation as they do (in Austin),” committee member and Wharton County rice producer Daniel Berglund told the Leader-News Friday. “I think it was kind of a way to tie that together and give something back while we can at this time.”

The donation worked to do good for those in need, Berglund said, as well as educate people about nutritious resources being grown in the area. Food insecurity has been on the rise across the nation during the ongoing pandemic.

Donations have also been made to Wharton County charities throughout the year, and the donations speak to the mindset of the committee as well as local producers in general, Berglund said.

“We’re all about helping our neighbors when they need help,” he said. “We can all see the strain this has put on our economy and on our whole system. Farmers and ranchers both, we want to help. It’s in our nature to help others.”

It’s only been a few weeks since the donation was made, but organization members are considering another.

“We’re hearing people talk about donating funds for us to do it again,” Berglund said. “It’s very possible it could happen again shortly. I hope it does.”

Committee members for the 2021 conference are Berglund, Bowen, Heath Bush, Laramie Kittler, Bob Little, Ralph Novosad, Dwight Roberts, Tommy Sanchez, Darryl Socha, Vivian Spanihel, Aaron Sumral, Tommy Turner and Bryan Wiese.

The 2021 virtual Western Rice Belt Production Conference is hosted by Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension offices and is free to attend. The conference will feature lectures from rice industry experts on topics such as breeding programs, pest management, land conservation and more.

The conference begins at 8 a.m. on Jan. 20 and ends around 2 p.m. Advance registration is required.

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