May 15, 2017

Getting the Most Out of Your Western Growers Membership

By Kim Sherman

Western Growers Director of Membership


Western Growers has one mission: to enhance the competitiveness and profitability of our members. Over the past 91 years, we’ve lived up to this vision through committed advocacy in public policy and political action, and by offering diverse educational opportunities and affordable business services designed from the ground up to help you thrive in a constantly changing environment.

We are committed to delivering on the promise of each and every program, and to ensuring that you receive the most value possible from your membership. “It comes down to the commitment to do the right thing by our members. If we focus on that, everything else will fall into place,” says Senior Executive Vice President Matt McInerney. “It’s about sitting across the table and having an ongoing conversation with our members so that we truly understand what’s making the most positive impact on their business, what’s saving them the most money, and what’s helping them differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Every offering has to directly impact each member’s ability to become more competitive and successful. That’s the benchmark that matters.”

To help ensure that you’re getting the most value possible as a Western Growers member, let’s explore the full scope of services and resources available to you. By thinking of Western Growers first, you’re not just gaining access to proven services created specifically for agriculture, you’re investing in the health and vitality of our entire industry. Because Western Growers is wholly owned by our members, we’re able to reinvest the revenue from these services into public policy and political advocacy, focused scientific research, legal and human resources expertise, and other programs that help ensure the future viability of agriculture for generations to come.


Member Advocacy and Communications

Member advocacy has been at the heart of Western Growers since it was founded in 1926 as a voluntary association to combat rate hikes and poor service by railroads. Today, Western Growers continues to lead the fight for sound legislative and regulatory policy on behalf of each and every one of our more than 2,300 members.  It is no secret that the political challenges facing agriculture are more serious than ever, especially in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.  Western Growers commits significant resources to field a high quality team of professional advocates, utilizing fully dedicated in-house lobbyists in addition to contract lobbyists, in the nation’s capital as well as in Sacramento and Phoenix.

Western Growers Government Affairs provides the strong, unified political voice needed to ensure the stability of our industry. We help focus the power of thousands of growers, processors, shippers, and related businesses to influence state and federal decision-making on costly regulatory matters that affect your business, including immigration and labor availability, water supply, environmental and workplace regulations, food safety, taxation, trade, technology and others.

Utilizing traditional as well as emerging media strategies, Strategic Initiatives and Communication informs and persuades journalists and others involved in the many discussions and debates involving our industry. In addition, the Western Growers team keeps members informed of important industry news and events through WG’s ‘Spotlight’ newsletter and other communications.


Western Growers Foundation

Western Growers Foundation was initially formed to provide school-age children with the opportunity to learn about farming, nutrition, and healthy eating. After funding more than 1,000 school gardens, the Foundation has evolved into a movement of ag leaders working with educators to inspire our next generation of farmworkers. In addition to providing grants for schools to build and maintain their gardens, the Foundation’s mission has evolved to support STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum to nurture children’s natural curiosity in areas related to farming and agriculture.

Through sponsored curriculum and hands-on learning in the gardens, students learn about the science of how seeds become salads, the technology available to enhance plant growth, the engineering behind ag equipment, and the math needed to calculate how much water is necessary for optimal yield.

The work of the Foundation inspires children to pursue STEM-related degrees at the university level. Western Growers Careers in Ag Program encourages college students to apply their STEM degrees to highly-skilled jobs in agriculture.

Beyond all, the Foundation works to ensure a bright future for the ag industry by helping the next generation of farmworkers and consumers.


Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology

The future of agriculture also depends on nurturing today’s technological advancements while developing tomorrow’s industry-changing breakthroughs. The Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology, located in Salinas, is an incubator for technology companies and startups dedicated to solving the challenges faced by the ag industry. The Center creates a collaborative environment to help identify and prioritize industry challenges, recruit innovators to create solutions, and expose these technologies and startups to growers as well as the investment community. Since opening its doors in December 2015, the Center has engaged 35 startups working on issues such as mechanization, precision growing, labor and asset management, energy efficiency, and waste reduction.


Training and Education

Established in 2005, Western Growers University (WGU) helps members achieve a competitive advantage through their people by providing cost-effective, bilingual training in a broad range of subjects including HR and employment law, immigration and labor, employee benefits, health care reform, industry compensation, leadership skills, safety and risk management, PACA rights and remedies, science and tech, and Food Safety Modernization Act training.

In addition to WGU, Western Growers Science & Technology experts provide monthly webinars, guidelines, and regulatory resources on important scientific and technical topics to members, staff, policy makers, and the public.


Risk Management and Benefits Consulting

Since first offering health insurance and employee benefits in 1986, Western Growers Insurance Services has expanded to include property and casualty insurance, workers’ compensation, safety and loss control services, and health care reform consulting. We complement our members’ risk management resources with a team of more than 60 ag industry specialists available to help you identify, manage, and mitigate risk while guiding you step-by-step through the continuously-evolving insurance marketplace.

To further expand the choices available to our members, Western Growers Assurance Trust enables employers to provide quality health insurance options that have historically been unobtainable from commercial health insurance carriers. Our full-service third-party administrator, Pinnacle Claims Management, offers competitive, cost-efficient health benefits administration to self-insured employers, including medical, dental, vision, and COBRA. Additional pharmacy benefits and health management options are offered through PinnacleRx Solutions and Pinnacle Health Management.


Western Growers Financial Services

Established in 2000, Western Growers Financial Services (WGFS) is a registered investment advisor and FINRA member broker-dealer managing more than $230 million in client and corporate assets.

WGFS provides a wide array of long and short term cash management, 401k and other retirement planning services as well as a broad selection of investment options, helping you and your employees achieve your unique financial goals while preserving financial security for your business.

WGFS also offers personalized and transparent services for you and your family; from college education funding to promoting your retirement security, WGFS has complimentary solutions for your financial lifestyle plan.


Labor and Employment Law

Western Growers Labor Services helps members navigate the confusing H-2A visa program, which is growing in popularity as ag employers look for new ways to secure and maintain a legal and reliable workforce.

Western Growers provides legal guidance and training to help our members navigate confusing employment law and HR requirements. Our Legal & HR hotline also offers expert guidance on employment and labor law, immigration, food safety, contracts, and other HR-related inquiries. WG’s legal team conducts seminars and webinars to help members stay informed on legal issues including unions, labor shortages, wage and hour law, and employment law. If you need additional assistance, we can serve as a referral to an attorney in the Western Growers Ag Legal Network, which offers members discounted rates with attorneys specializing in an array of legal services.

Western Growers’ Personnel Procedures Manual—the authoritative guide for agricultural managers, supervisors, and HR staff—is updated annually to help California and Arizona ag employers stay in compliance with state and federal regulations.


Transportation and Trade

The Western Growers Transportation Program is a member-only service provided in partnership with C.H. Robinson that offers turnkey supply chain solutions for moving produce from source to destination. The program includes access to consultative account management, tailored pricing options, national surge capacity, and business intelligence; all without any fees or commitment of freight.

The Western Growers Trade Practices & Commodity Services (TPCS) department was founded in 1966, and returns millions of dollars to members each year through collections of slow pay and disputed sales contracts. TPCS also provides guidance and support in Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) trust actions, product guaranty statements, contract reviews, destination issues, packaging requirements, and standardization regulations, as well as continual education on rights and remedies with produce sales contracts, representation in PACA or Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC) disputes, collection assistance for past due and disputed invoices, and coaching on real time challenges that our members face on a daily basis.

Western Growers also works for you on a global level, providing assistance with issues related to international trade, export, and logistics. We closely monitor international trade negotiations, address tariff and non-tariff barriers, and help mitigate the obstacles that affect export markets. WG’s Global MRL Database is an Internet–accessible electronic database containing global chemical regulatory standards and data, including maximum residue limits (MRLs) for various chemicals in agricultural crops that are applicable in certain legal jurisdictions.


Western Growers’ Commitment to You

Western Growers is able to offer the broadest possible range of solutions to our members because we develop in-house resources as well as partnerships with best-in-class third-party providers. To even be considered as a potential partner, candidates must be able to demonstrate the highest level of expertise and integrity, the desire to provide a consultative interaction with members, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

“We’re completely focused on member value,” adds McInerney. “Western Growers is able to attract and vet the best partners because of our position in the industry. We will never consider a partnership or initiative unless we determine that it’s truly valuable to our members. How does this benefit our members? Where are the savings? Where’s the offering that’s going to make them better in their business? We’ve asked the important questions to deliver on our promise.”