A former congressman who spearheaded the 2002 farm bill and two brothers who helped create an ice-cream empire have received Texas A&M Distinguished Texan in Agriculture awards.

Former U.S. Rep. Charles Stenholm and Ed and Howard Kruse of Blue Bell Creameries were recognized for outstanding leadership and significant contributions to Texas agriculture.

The awards were presented at the 2007 Ag Forum held in Austin.

“All three of these individuals have made historic contributions to Texas agriculture throughout their careers,” said Elsa Murano, vice chancellor and dean for agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M University and the director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.

“Agribusiness in Texas has benefited either directly or indirectly from their leadership and foresight, which has kept our multi-billion-dollar state industry at the forefront of innovation.”

Stenholm was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 13 terms from 1979 to 2005. He helped lead the 2002 farm bill that promoted stewardship of agricultural land and water resources, and ensured continued research to “maintain an efficient and innovative agricultural and food sector,” according to the nomination citation.

Stenholm was born in Stamford and graduated from Texas Tech University.

He has operated a cotton farm in West Texas for many years.

Ed Kruse is chairman of the board of Brenham-based Blue Bell Creameries; Howard Kruse is president emeritus of the company. Both graduated from Texas A&M with bachelor's degrees in dairy manufacturing and are distinguished alumni of the university and outstanding alumni of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“They employ more than 800 people in the Washington County area,” according to the nomination citation. “It takes milk from 50,000 to 60,000 cows for a day's production at Blue Bell. If one considers feed, equipment and personnel to manage those cattle, (that) translates to billions of dollars in Texas Agriculture. The national impact includes 28 distribution centers in 11 states.”

Among best sellers

“Blue Bell Ice Cream is one of the best selling ice creams in the country,” said Michael McBurney, a co-nominator and professor and head of the department of nutrition and food science at Texas A&M. “The Distinguished Texan in Agriculture Award honors agricultural leaders in Texas who have distinguished themselves by accomplishment and their commitment to integrity. The Kruses' good work ethics extend to Texas by giving through service, philanthropy and example. They are very deserving of this honor.”

Blue Bell is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2007 and produces a variety of ice cream and frozen products.