Alan’s rice honour

By Zoe McMaugh

"When you have an industry like rice, it is one big family.  And it's a pleasure to put back into an industry like that."

That was the humble response from ricegrower Alan Walsh to being made an honorary councillor of the Ricegrowers Association of Australia last week.

Mr Walsh, who is still farming in the Deniliquin are has expanded his operations further north, was bestowed the honour at the RGA conference held in Corowa late last week.

It paid tribute to many years of service to the industry through representative roles on the RGA, with SunRice and other organisations.

"It was very unexpected. You don't do these roles for recognition, you do it because you love the industry," Mr Walsh said.

"Our forefathers, whether it be my relatives or generally, put in a lot of volunteer work and so I always felt a need to be involved.

"I was involved with the football club, school committees and even SRI (Southern Riverina Irrigators).

"That's the way society works, you put back in and you contribute."

Mr Walsh has had a notable office-bearing career that began when he joined RGA in 1985, and culminated in 15 years as a SunRice director.

He held roles including Deni RGA branch vice president from 1993-1997; Deni branch secretary 1999-2012; Deni branch seed committee alternate 1994-2001; Central Executive delegate 1997-2013; RGA Murray water committee 1997-2013; RGA environment working group 2005-2013; RGA environment committee 2000-2002; RGA conservation committee 1998-2000; and Rice Environmental Policy advisory group 2003-2013.

Mr Walsh has also been chairman of Rice Research Australia Pty Ltd (RRAPL), a director of Riviana Foods and director of Solomons Rice Company.

Mr Walsh also had a personal example when it came to being involved with the industry and community, with his grandfather Frank Walsh a former chair of the Rice Marketing Board.

His family started growing rice in the Murrami district in the late 1920s, and Mr Walsh's father Barry and uncle Jim were some of the pioneers in the Wakool district in the late 1940s.

"I have chalked up 43 years of continuously growing rice for SunRice, and I have planted two crops for 2019.

"I've got them in up north in the Burdekin district at Ayr.

"I also still actively farm in Deniliquin and work my way through through both areas.  I have wheat in at Deniliquin at the moment."

Mr Walsh said he almost did not attend the RGA conference last week because he has work to do on his Queensland property.

He said he was encouraged to attend by a friend, with confirmation of his award a few days before the conference the final push he needed to register.

"Former Deniliquin RGA branch president Nick Morona called to check I would be going to the conference.  He had said his parents had been nominated for their 50 years in the rice industry, and he wanted us there.

"After a little while I thought something must be going on, and then I had a call from RGA executive Graeme Kruger to give me some pre-warning about the award should I want to prepare a speech.

"So while I did know a few days before, it did still come as a surprise."

Mr Kruger said Mr Walsh's passion and dedication to the rice industry is second to none.

"His commitment to his roles and lateral thinking has been instrumental to his successful contributions to the rice industry, and we are all truly indebted to Alan and his strong contribution over his career," he said.