With a final round of meetings Thursday morning, including a visit with California’s newest Senator, Kamala Harris, the Western Growers Board of Directors concluded their annual trip to Washington, D.C. Over the course of three days, directors and staff met with numerous congressional representatives from member states – California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico – including key leadership and agricultural committee members, as well as Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
With labor issues reaching critical stage for many WG members, and little movement since 2013 when the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that was never taken up by the House of Representatives, the WG delegation made this topic the focal point of many conversations with elected leaders and administration officials.
“This week, our main message was that our members are facing a severe labor crisis and, consequently, immigration reform must become a top priority for Congress and President Trump,” said WG President and CEO Tom Nassif. “We pressed for a solution that not only provides for a workable future flow of guest workers, but one that also provides for adjustment of status for existing farmworkers.”
Other topics addressed during the course of the meetings included water infrastructure, tax reform, international trade, Endangered Species Act reform and the 2018 farm bill reauthorization.
“Every year I come to Washington, D.C., with Western Growers, I am reminded of the importance of our members engaging with our representatives and advocating on behalf of the fresh produce industry,” said WG Chairman Sammy Duda. “I am confident the relationships we reinforced this week will help pave the way for real legislative and regulatory solutions to the challenges facing western fruit, vegetable and tree nut farmers.”
The list of Congressional representatives and Administration officials visited include:
- Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona
- Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris of California
- Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner of Colorado
- Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas
- Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall of New Mexico
- Tom Tillis of North Carolina
- Ruben Gallego of Arizona
- Salud Carbjal, Luis Correa, Jim Costa, Jeff Denham, Darrell Issa, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Jimmy Panetta, David Valadao and Mimi Walters of California
- Ken Buck and Mike Coffman of Colorado
- Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida
- Rodney Davis of Illinois
- House Agricultural Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson of Minnesota
- Ben Ray Lujan, Michelle Lujan-Grisham and Steve Pearce of New Mexico
- House Agricultural Committee Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas
- Bob Goodlatte of Virginia
- Sonny Perdue , Secretary of Agriculture
- Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator
- Ray Starling, Special Assistant to the President for Agriculture, Trade and Food Assistance