Western Growers’ Board of Directors met with nearly 30 key legislative representatives and regulatory officials in Washington, D.C., this week to vocalize the need for immigration reform and hear updates about U.S. trade actions and the farm bill renewal. The Board spent Tuesday speaking with members of the Senate, while Wednesday was dedicated to having discussions with House representatives.
“It was fortuitous that we came at a time when issues of great importance to WG members were being voted on, such as the farm bill,” said Tom Nassif, WG president and CEO. “The face-to-face candid conversations with legislators and regulators were insightful.”
Throughout the meetings, WG members urged legislative representatives to put forth a solution that would help secure a reliable workforce for the fresh produce industry. Specific examples of how the lack of labor and water and the continual increase in regulations are detrimentally affecting WG members’ ability to produce the fruits and vegetables for the nation and world were described to each legislator. WG members also inquired about the status of NAFTA and current trade discussions with China.
The farm bill was at the forefront of most of the discussions in the House, as it is slated to be voted upon this week. WG members stressed the importance of including more funding for more research and development programs since it is not currently a priority in the farm bill as written.
“Despite the fact that all legislators are keenly aware of our issues and concern, there is still a high degree of uncertainty surrounding our issues and nothing is getting done,” said Craig Reade, chairman of WG and partner at Bonipak Produce.
Separately, a small group of WG members and staff traveled to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to receive clarification on exemptions and special rules as they relate to the electronic logging device and discuss how this new regulation can work for fresh produce growers.
Additionally, some WG members were joined by the Arizona and California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association to speak with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the recent romaine outbreak. FDA provided the group with an update on the outbreak, and collectively, the five produce organizations decided to launch a task force to look into new ways to strengthen preventative controls.