September/October 2019

This issue of Western Grower & Shipper is about “firsts.” Western Growers has led the way in several areas of science and technology beginning with our leadership in the food safety arena.

It is not well known, but Western Growers food safety history goes back decades. In 1990, when I joined Western Growers, we were already way ahead of other trade associations and industry partners who were still focused on chemical residues as the principal food safety concern in fresh produce.

Hank Giclas

By Terry O'Connor

Labor Code § 2802 requires California employers to reimburse employees for all necessary expenditures incurred in the performance of their duties. In general, employers must reimburse the cost of uniforms, travel expenses, tools and equipment required for the job. Necessary expenditures include any attorney fees or costs incurred by employees to recoup expenses from their employer.

California’s wage and hour plaintiff attorneys have seized on expense reimbursement as another means of extracting large settlements from unwary employers.

As 2020 quickly approaches, we are going to be faced with significant unknowns that could have a dramatic impact on our financial market. Will the trade war with China still be in full swing? Are we going to see a recession? What effect will the election of a new president have on the market? In the same vein, how would a re-election of President Trump affect national finances? With so many looming questions, Western Growers understands that you, our members, need some insight, guidance and tips for securing your personal financial state in such volatile times.

Matt Lewis

By Hilario Garcia

The morning of Tuesday, June 11, 2019, started like any other for Jose Lopez, one of the loss control consultants here at Western Growers Insurance Services (WGIS). He was conducting first aid/CPR training for the management team of one of our clients. It was one of the hottest days of the year, with temperatures reaching the high 90s. The training was going according to plan until Jose was pulled from his session.

Mike Saqui grew up the son of a union organizer in heavily-unionized New Jersey expecting that someday he would come back home and help union members take back control of their union from less-than-ethical leaders.

Instead, after graduating from a California law school, he met a labor lawyer named Tom Nassif who directed him to a career working on the management side of the negotiating table. “I’m still helping workers by working with companies and helping them be the best employer they can be. It’s all part of our ‘Employer of Choice’ program.”

Tim Linden

There’s an old adage that life can only be understood looking backwards and only lived moving forward. When Western Growers Assurance Trust (WGAT) was founded in 1957, it was the beginning of something unique—there was a large gap between the agriculture and health care industry that needed to be bridged. Little did our founders know that more than 60 years later, WGAT would become the largest provider of health benefits for the agriculture industry.

David Zanze

Participants in Western Growers Ag Legal Network (WGALN) agree to give Western Growers members a 15 percent discount off of their normal legal services rates.*

The WG-member law firms listed below specialize in a wide array of legal issues to fit virtually any need a member may have, from business contracts to labor issues to food safety liability. Members of the WGALN are highlighted in bold typeface with their practice areas are noted. Western Growers law firm members who advertise in this issue have also earned a descriptive phrase explaining their scope of practice.


At the time of the writing of this article, the California Legislature had returned to Sacramento from its summer recess. They are now in session and will be for five more weeks as they complete the year’s legislative business. Governor Gavin Newsom will then have until October 13 to act on those bills that have reached his desk. Western Growers has worked all year to advocate for issues and bills that further the interests of our industry. We have also been working feverishly to either amend or stop bills that would have harmful impacts on agriculture in California.

A skilled labor deficit is plaguing the nation’s agriculture industry as more growers are turning to mechanization and digitization to bolster operations on the farm. There are an average of 60,000 openings for high-skill, ag-related jobs annually but only 35,000 graduates to fill them, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree or higher with a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum extremely valuable. They include positions in plant and food science, water resources, engineering and precision agriculture.

When Colin Brown stepped off the plane into the soothing overcast haze that blanketed Monterey County’s farm fields, he knew this is where his agtech company, TracMap, had to be. TracMap originally launched in New Zealand in 2005, and after 10 years of success in offering growers a system that ensured the right fields, blocks and rows were being harvested, cultivated, irrigated, fertilized and sprayed, the company expanded to Australia and now to the Western United States.

Western Growers was founded in 1926 in California's Imperial Valley. One of our primary missions was to fight for fair transportation rates for the agricultural industry. We brought the industry together to support a common goal based on the philosophy that there is strength in numbers. And in 2006, we selected C.H. Robinson, one of the world’s largest third party logistics providers (3PL), to help us with that goal.

At a time when the world’s population is soaring—to an estimated 9.7 billion in 2020—and natural resources are quickly depleting, farmers are now faced with crushing weather conditions that are affecting their ability to grow food in a sustainable way. In just the past few years, the United States has seen wildfires blanket regions throughout California; unreal temperatures stymie farm production; warm winters threaten the Sierra Nevada snowpack; and devastating storms and floods decimate cities and towns.

Member Profile

Glenn Hirakata

Hirakata Farms

Rocky Ford, CO

Member Since 2013

Hirakata Farms has a legacy in Colorado that dates back more than a century, spans five generations and has survived countless changes in its lifetime. Today, the firm continues to surmount the challenges of being commercially viable in an area that isn’t really that friendly to agricultural production.

Tim Linden

In 1908, President Teddy Roosevelt formed the Commission on Country Life to provide recommendations on ways to preserve rural life, which he considered to be the backbone of our nation. At the time, the American economy was in transition, and children were leaving farms for the cities in record numbers. More than 100 years later, agriculture is still grappling with the consequences of this demographic shift.

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Western Growers members care deeply for the food they grow, the land they sustain, the people they employ, and the community in which they live.