Western Growers directors and industry friends celebrated the achievements of Matt McInerney, WG’s senior executive vice president, during the March 2019 Board of Directors meeting. The three-day meeting concluded yesterday in Sacramento.
During the meeting, WG directors discussed state and federal legislative and regulatory priorities impacting the fresh produce industry, and received updates on the several key programs and initiatives being undertaken by WG entities.
The highlight of the meeting was a Wednesday evening farewell to McInerney, who is retiring after 43 years of service to WG. During the celebration, McInerney’s friends and family gathered to share memories of their interactions with Matt and to thank him for his extensive contributions to the agricultural industry.
The following is a summary of the major issues discussed during the committee meetings and addressed by the full board:
Food Safety/Science & Tech: As a result of the recent E.coli outbreak associated with romaine, several industry initiatives have been launched focusing on the following: how produce safety is approached; re-assessing prevention strategies; traceability; and additional research and more partnerships to leverage local in-depth knowledge for short- and long-term remediation measures.
Legislative: WG is working with members of the House to create a bipartisan bill on ag labor. WG is also working with Senate Republicans to convey that this is an important issue and build momentum to match the work going on in the House. WG advocates for legislation that will create a new guest worker visa program and provide a workable path to legalization for our existing workforce and their families. Additionally, the board received an update on California drinking water legislation.
International Trade/Trade Practices: Board members heard updates on the retaliatory tariffs that the fresh produce industry faces from countries such as China, India, Mexico and Turkey. According to UC Davis, the ag industry faces $3.3 billion in damages from various tariffs. WG has expressed to the Administration and to Congress that one of the most significant concerns that member farmers have now is being able to regain market shares in China once retaliatory tariffs are lifted. Additionally, WG is working with the Administration to pass the NAFTA replacement legislation, as well as create a trade agreement with Japan.
Water: The Water Committee met with Karla Nemeth (Director of the California Department of Water Resources), Dee Dee D’Adamo (Vice Chair, California Water Resources Control Board), officials with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as well as water agency leaders. Topics included implementation challenges associated with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act; the State Water Resources Control Board’s Bay Delta Plan Update; Central Valley Project operations; and the recently approved Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, an agreement between the seven Colorado River Basin states and Mexico designed to avoid a formal shortage declaration on that river system, which would have serious implications for water users.
Labor: H-2A was a hot topic during the Labor Committee meeting. Challenges regarding transportation and housing were discussed, including impediments to building or converting existing housing into H-2A housing. Additionally, staff reported that H-2A usage continues to grow, with nearly 19,000 temporary guest worker jobs being approved last fiscal year – a 24 percent increase over the prior period.