Eligio “Kika” de la Garza, Democratic former Texas and U.S. congressman and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, died March 13 at age 89.
As House Ag Committee chairman from 1981 to 1995, he pushed farmers’ and immigrant agricultural workers’ agendas, and helped to reorganize the agricultural lending and farm insurance systems, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and pesticide laws. He was critical in passing the legislation that enacted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
According to his New York Times obituary, “From that seat he was an advocate for food stamps, drought relief for parched farms, expanded markets for American products in Mexico promoted by the North American Free Trade Agreement, and price supports for homegrown commodities like sugar, cotton, mohair, honey and even Lone Star State wine.”
He described his goal in Congress as bridging “the tremendous gap between the consumer and the fellow who rides on the tractor or who is picking the fruit,” the NYT said.
De la Garza was a Navy and Army veteran who served in the Korean War. He formed the Hispanic Caucus with three other congressmen in 1976. He lost his seat on the Agriculture Committee when Republicans gained control of the House in 1995 and did not seek another term. He was a past recipient of the North American Meat Institute's Richard E. Lyng Award, which honors individuals who have distinguished themselves for their public service.
De la Garza is survived by his wife, Lucille Alamia; two sons, Jorge and Michael; a daughter, Angela Cisneros; eight grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
Kika de la Garza, Texas Congressman and Farmers' Ally, Dies at 89
Regarded as a conservative Democrat, Mr. de la Garza endorsed constitutional amendments requiring a balanced budget and allowing prayer in public school classrooms. He formed the Hispanic Caucus with three other congressmen in 1976 to lobby for common goals and later led the group, but he distinguished himself from ethnic separatists.