January/February 2021

What is the Biden Administration’s agenda and how will our industry fare? Here’s a short and unsatisfying answer: We’ll all find out together.

Often, an incoming President’s priorities are discerned from the campaign. Presidential candidates can create a governing mandate by defining their candidacy around a clear and unambiguous policy agenda.

While the Biden campaign issued a raft of policy papers, it may be assuming too much to consider them a cohesive governing agenda, much less an electoral mandate. Voters saw and heard very little about policy issues.

Five years ago, Western Growers launched its Center for Innovation and Technology (WGCIT), housed in the Taylor Farms building in downtown Salinas. WGCIT brings together the ag industry and firms operating in the technology space to actively work on some of agriculture’s most vexing problems.

In October 2020, Walt Duflock was selected to lead Western Growers’ (WG) innovation efforts. He will be focused on accelerating agtech for WG member companies, expanding the footprint of the WG Center for Innovation & Technology, and so much more.

Q. What are your priorities this first year?

A. Innovation in two directions: labor and food safety. We need to identify ways to bolster and accelerate harvest automation as well as improve the current food safety situation through more innovation.

Western Growers’ H-2A Services team recently supported an Orange County-based member in navigating the intricacies of their H-2A filing, including added H-2A housing compliance complexities due to COVID-19.

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Western Growers’ Trade Practices Department (your one-stop shop for consultation and education on fresh produce contracts and the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act) recently secured $42,000 in PACA Decision & Awards for two California-based shippers that had contracts go awry due to COVID-19.

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Stephanie Metzinger

The commencement of a fresh decade brought with it an unprecedented array of adversity containing a fury of events from Mother Nature herself. The world spent a majority of 2020 operating under the umbrella of a novel virus that upturned normality as we knew it. Despite the numerous effects stemming from these events, Western Growers and the agriculture industry continued to advance food safety practices, research studies, data projects, and technologies.

For all the challenges 2020 brought our industry, country, and world, the year was also marked by the 20th anniversary of Western Growers Financial Services (WGFS), a registered investment advisor and broker-dealer that currently manages more than $300 million in client and corporate assets.

Since it was first established in 2000, WGFS has been driven by the same mission that has guided the Western Growers Family of Companies for nearly a century: To provide quality products and services that enhance the competitiveness and profitability of our members.

Matt Lewis

By Claudia Pizarro-Villalobos and Cory Lunde

What drives an individual or organization to rise above in times of adversity? Why are some defeated by challenges and others thrive and come out ahead? Let’s take a glimpse into produce history to examine the unique parallels between the leadership and legacy built and sustained by D’Arrigo California and Western Growers (WG).

Cory Lunde

By Teresa McQueen, Western Growers Corporate Counsel

Even with an unprecedented legislative session that saw a two-month pause in activity and hundreds of bills set aside, Gov. Gavin Newsom managed to end this year’s bill-signing session with several significant new employment related laws which will impact California employers for years to come.

Over the past five years, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting and working with a number of our members. As president of Western Growers Insurance Services, I’ve also been able to fully immerse myself in the capabilities of our association and its resources.

There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has helped fuel the growth of telemedicine. Although telehealth resources have been available for some time, an International Data Corporation (IDC) report found that an estimated 83.9% of patients were using it for the first time this year.

Offering telehealth services is critical for the rural and ag communities as they support farm workers and other marginalized groups who have difficulty accessing standard medical care.

Telehealth services benefit the ag community in several ways:

David Zanze

By Chardae Heim, Communications Coordinator

(Editor’s Note: David Valadao is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing California’s 21st Congressional District. He is a lifelong resident of California’s Central Valley and an active member in agriculture and dairy industry groups. He initially won three consecutive terms serving from 2013-2019, before losing the seat in the 2018 election and then reclaiming it in the November 2020 election.)

Chardae Heim

2020 is finally in our rearview mirror. We’ve been waiting for this moment, feeling on some days that it might never arrive. The personal and financial toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on our lives and the California agricultural industry has been staggering and incalculable. Yet, we have risen to the occasion as an essential sector and should be proud of the many substantial and collective contributions that the entire industry has made to fight this pandemic.

Every four years we go through a seemingly never-ending presidential campaign. With COVID ravaging the country, this was no doubt the strangest presidential campaign in a long time. Obviously, the headline is that Donald Trump lost reelection and Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States with Kamala Harris becoming the first woman, first Asian American, and first African American vice president.

A seventh-generation California farmer, Philip Adam (Chief Operating Officer, Innovative Produce) has worked with his family for the past nine years in Santa Maria, excelling in every aspect of the business from moving sprinkler pipe to research and development. Prior to joining Innovative Produce, he was a financial analyst for Corporate Finance Associates. Philip has held a California FLC (farm labor contractor) license since 2017, serves as president of PCH harvesting and is the agriculture representative to the Northern Santa Barbara County Econ Alliance. He earned his B.A.

Stephanie Metzinger

Kristen Smith Eshaya (Communications Director & Risk Management Specialist, JV Smith Companies) has worked for JV Smith Companies in Yuma, AZ, as Communications Director and Risk Management Specialist since October 2017. She has optimized insurance programs for the entire JV Smith Family of companies spanning four states and two countries. Kristen has facilitated leadership development training and maintained open lines of communication between each company utilizing various techniques including intensive training from The Arbinger Institute.

Stephanie Metzinger

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