Earlier this week, the Western Growers’ Executive Committee and Arizona board members joined forces in Phoenix for annual Leadership meetings. The WG directors, joined by WG President and CEO Tom Nassif and key staff, met with legislators, candidates, administration officials, political strategists and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss the 2014 elections and what they could mean for the future of Arizona and the fresh produce industry. Immigration reform was a key discussion topic in the meetings.
Despite the legislature’s on-going budget debate which precluded arranged meetings with Speaker Andy Tobin and House Majority Leader David Gowan, legislative visits were held with several prominent elected officials, including Senate President Andy Biggs. Part of those discussions addressed amending the proposed budget to include the Governor's recommendation to increase funding for the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Program. Meetings were held with a number of legislative candidates and with Scott Smith, Mayor of the city of Mesa, who is running for governor.
The group also met with Glenn Hamer, the head of the AZ Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to discuss immigration reform and the Chamber’s plan for the 2014 elections. A visit with Mike Lacey, the newly-appointed Director for the Arizona Department of Water Resources, rounded out two solid and productive days of meetings.
Keeping the Pressure On in DC
Following the Arizona meetings, Nassif flew to Washington D.C. to continue the immigration reform discussions, this time with federal legislators, and also to address California’s water woes. Nassif had several meetings with key Members of Congress on both issues, including Sens. John McCain and Dianne Feinstein, as well as Representatives Jeff Denham, Jim Costa, David Valadao, Darrell Issa and John Garamendi.
One meeting of particular importance was a strategy session with Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) CEOs that focused on keeping pressure on the House to act on immigration reform. Republican Leadership still hopes to take up immigration reform this year. As such, the Coalition will be redoubling its efforts on this issue in the weeks ahead.
On the issue of water, Nassif met with legislators to continue discussions on how to move a water bill through the Senate so the legislation can be conferenced with a water bill that has already passed House.