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6 2020 WG CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD Talley to ‘Embrace Change’ During Transition Year 10 DAVE PUGLIA The Fresh Produce Industry’s New Chief Advocate 16 12 Agriculture Leaders Who Are Transforming the World 22 Tom Nassif’s Tenure Celebrated at 2019 Annual Meeting 42 CHEMIST TURNED ENTREPRENEUR, FOUNDER OF MOBIUS ANDWINNER OF THE 2019 AGSHARKS COMPETITION 24 Hours with Tony Bova
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DEPARTMENTS 4 President’s Notes 20
California Member Profile
30 Legislator Profile 32 Insurance Corner 33
Western Growers Assurance Trust
34 Agriculture & the Law 38
Federal Government Affairs California Government Affairs
39 40 45 46
Science & Technology
Western Growers Connections
Western Grower & Shipper ISSN 0043-3799, Copyright © 2020 by the Western Grower & Shipper is published bi-monthly by Western Grower & Shipper Publishing Company, a division of Western Growers Service Corp., 15525 Sand Canyon Avenue, Irvine California 92618. Business and Editorial Offices: 15525 Sand Canyon Avenue, Irvine California 92618.Accounting and Circulation Offices:Western Grower & Shipper, 15525 Sand Canyon Avenue, Irvine California 92618. Call (949) 863-1000 to subscribe. Subscription is $18 per year. Foreign subscription is $36 per year. Single copies of recent issues, $1.50. Single copies of issues more than three months old, $2. Single copies ofYearbook issue $4. Periodicals postage is paid in Irvine, California and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Western Grower & Shipper , PO Box 2130, Newport Beach, California 92658.
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DAVE PUGLIA | PRESIDENT AND CEO, WESTERN GROWERS PRESIDENT’S NOTES
From One Very Interesting Year to Another As I complete my 15 th year with Western Growers, I am filled with gratitude and anticipation. On February 1, I take over as President and CEO. In just about every way possible, 2020 will be an unusually interesting year, and I am eager to jump in.
The last year was also unusually interesting, as I had the honor of being considered for this responsibility by a search committee comprised of 12 WG directors and Tom Nassif, our retiring President and CEO. To say that your elected directors took this duty seriously is an understatement, certainly from my perspective as a candidate. It was a grueling process, for all the right reasons. In this as in all things, your board of directors served the industry with integrity, sophistication and energy. Elsewhere in this edition, you can learn a bit more about me. I have had the pleasure of meeting many WG members through the years, and I look forward to many more interactions in the months and years to come. Growing up in the suburbs, the only fields I knew as a kid were for baseball and football, so every visit to your farms and facilities brings invaluable new learning and relationships. Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” I intend to stay young. This column allows me to share my perspective on important industry issues, challenges and trends, the good work of the professional Western Growers staff and the many contributions of our members. I hope to also spark you to contribute; to weigh in so that my colleagues and I can benefit from your experience, knowledge and views. Below this column is an email address; I’ll check it frequently. Many people have asked about my priorities. Chief among them is advocacy. Western Growers was founded for that purpose, and the need for WG’s strong, unrelenting and effective voice in the public policy arena has only grown more critical. Certainly under Tom Nassif’s leadership, Western Growers has attained a high level of influence and accomplishment as the industry’s advocate, across dozens of diverse issues. Yet we must confront the reality that in too many issue areas, our industry is increasingly defensive and losing ground (literally and figuratively). We must rethink everything we do in our advocacy as we grapple not only with the urban domination of our legislatures, but also environmental and labor organizations whose vast resources and activist-driven agendas give them outsized influence over legislatures and regulatory agencies alike. There will be much more to say on this, but be assured that the mission of advocacy is and always will be at the center of my focus and energies. Another high priority is delivering the highest quality business support to our members, and pushing ourselves to evolve as our
members’ needs change. As with advocacy, the business and consultative services Western Growers provides its members are aligned with our mission: To enhance the competitiveness and profitability of our members. These services were created to respond to the needs of our members, and every time a member chooses Western Growers— whether for health benefits, commercial insurance, workforce training, retirement planning and investment, H-2A assistance or our other services—that member is investing in the whole of Western Growers, from advocacy and food safety to trade practices, technology solutions and much more. The Western Growers Family of Companies has grown considerably in just the 15 years that I’ve been part of it, now employing about 450 dedicated professionals. With our mission in mind, there is much to be proud of in this array of member-focused businesses, but I am highly attuned to the risks that come with such growth and success. No one in the Western Growers Family of Companies is resting on laurels, but even as we push ourselves to execute exceptionally well in our existing services, we must also stretch to see around the corner; to anticipate tomorrow’s problems and help our members find the best solutions. That sort of anticipation and responsiveness was the genesis of our investment in the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology, which is delivering practical solutions to industry challenges with increasing speed. This is an incredibly exciting time to be part of agriculture, and I share with so many the zeal to concentrate our minds and labors to realize the future we know this industry deserves. Before 2005, I would have never imagined that I would dedicate myself so completely to the fresh produce industry. But isn’t that how it goes for so many? We make plans, and plans change. As I embark on this most important journey in my career, perhaps this was the plan all along. All that I have experienced seems to have led me to readiness for this greatest challenge and opportunity. Indeed, I am incredibly fortunate to have found my home in the agriculture industry, and not whatever would have emerged from “the plan” of a young political operative from the suburbs. Now, let’s get on with the work ahead.
To weigh in on issues of importance to your business and the fresh produce industry, please contact Dave Puglia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4 Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2020
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2020 WG CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD Talley to ‘Embrace Change’ During Transition Year
By Tim Linden W hile incoming Western Growers 2020 Chairman of the Board Ryan Talley does not expect there to be sweeping changes under his watch, he does note that it will be a transition year for the association and some change is inevitable. “I am very excited for Western Growers as we bring on board Dave Puglia as the new president/CEO. My role is to be as helpful
to Dave as I can be during this year of transition,” he said. “I don’t expect there to be major changes but I also hate to say it will be status quo. We are bringing on a new chief executive who will have a different management style and will see things differently. I embrace change and know that Dave does as well. This is a great opportunity to see our issues with some fresh eyes.” For his part, Talley will highlight the role small and medium size farmers play in western specialty agriculture and will pay specific attention to this sector. “I am not saying that this group has been ignored by Western Growers in the past, but it is the sector I represent and this a great opportunity to use my platform to emphasize this group,” he said. “Medium-ish” is the descriptor Talley uses to describe his family’s operation. The company was founded in 1948 in Arroyo Grande, CA, by his grandparents Oliver and Hazel Talley. Hazel hailed from Canada while Oliver was a Central Coast guy who came back home after graduating from U.C. Berkeley. He was not a farmer by birth nor education but rather entered the industry simply because that is the path he wanted to follow. He first farmed in the Los Osos Valley, west of San Luis Obispo, before starting his own company in the late 1940s in Arroyo Grande, which is south of SLO. Oliver and Hazel had two sons—Don and Ken—both of
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whom graduated from college in the 1960s and joined the family farm, which was producing row crops at the time. Unfortunately, Ken died in the mid-1970s while only in his early 30s, leaving behind his wife, Karen, and two young sons, Todd and the aforementioned Ryan. Oliver was in control of the family business through the 1970s, though Don and his wife, Rosemary, took over more and more of the management responsibilities. “My grandfather retired in the early ‘80s but I remember him as a farmer. I remember bouncing along in his vehicle in the fields with the distinct smell of cigar smoke and dust in the air,” Ryan quipped. He also remembers going to work in the family farm when he was as young as 12 years old in the mid-‘80s. By the late ‘80s, Don’s son, Brian, joined the operation, followed by both Todd and
Ryan in the mid-1990s after they came home from college. Ryan went to Purdue University, graduating in 1995 with a degree in finance. He briefly entertained the idea of taking a position in the Midwest with American Express, but proactively decided that he wanted a career in agriculture instead. He came back to Arroyo Grande, joined the company on a full-time basis and began his unofficial apprenticeship under the watchful eye of Don. Initially, he worked in various parts of the company, including stints on the loading docks and in the computer room. But gradually, he spent more and more time in the fields. “Don was in charge and he took it upon himself to groom me to step into the role he occupied as head of the row crop division. He gradually gave me more responsibility and when he had a heart attack and stroke in 2004, I was ready to fill that spot.”
WESTERN GROWERS OFFICERS – 2020
RYAN TALLEY, Chairman ALBERT KECK, Senior Vice Chair STUART WOOLF, Vice Chair CAROL CHANDLER, Treasurer VICTOR SMITH, Executive Secretary DAVE PUGLIA, President DIRECTORS – 2020 GEORGE J. ADAM Innovative Produce, Santa Maria, California ALEXANDRA ALLEN Main Street Produce, Santa Maria, California KEVIN S. ANDREW Vanguard International, Bakersfield, California ROBERT K. BARKLEY Barkley Ag Enterprises LLP,Yuma, Arizona STEPHEN J. BARNARD Mission Produce, Inc., Oxnard, California BARDIN E. BENGARD Bengard Ranch, Salinas, California GEORGE BOSKOVICH III Boskovich Farms, Oxnard, California NEILL CALLIS Turlock Fruit Company,Turlock, California DON CAMERON Terranova Ranch, Helm, California EDWIN A. CAMP D. M. Camp & Sons, Bakersfield, California CAROL CHANDLER Chandler Farms LP, Selma, California LAWRENCEW. COX Coastline Family Farms, Salinas, California STEPHEN F. DANNA Danna Farms, Inc.,Yuba City, California JOHN C. D’ARRIGO D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California, Salinas, California THOMAS DEARDORFF II Deardorff Family Farms, Oxnard, California FRANZW. DE KLOTZ Richard Bagdasarian Inc., Mecca, California SAMUEL D. DUDA Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Inc., Salinas, California CATHERINE A. FANUCCHI Tri-Fanucchi Farms Inc., Bakersfield, California DAVID L. GILL Rio Farms, King City, California BRANDON A. GRIMM Grimmway Farms, Arvin, California JOHN JACKSON Beachside Produce, LLC, Nipomo, California A. G. KAWAMURA Orange County Produce, LLC, Irvine, California ALBERT KECK Hadley Date Gardens,Thermal, California FRED P. LOBUE, JR. LoBue Bros., Inc., Lindsay, California FRANK MACONACHY Ramsay Highlander, Inc., Gonzales, California JOHN S. MANFRE Frank Capurro and Son, Moss Landing, California STEPHEN MARTORI III Martori Farms, Scottsdale, Arizona HAROLD MCCLARTY HMC Farms, Kingsburg, California TOMMULHOLLAND Mulholland Citrus, Orange Cove, California ALEXANDERT. MULLER Pasquinelli Produce Co.,Yuma, Arizona DOMINIC J. MUZZI Muzzi Family Farms, LLC, Moss Landing, California MARK NICKERSON PrimeTime International, Coachella, California THOMAS M. NUNES The Nunes Company, Inc., Salinas, California STEPHEN F. PATRICIO Westside Produce, Firebaugh, California RON RATTO Ratto Bros. Inc., Modesto, California CRAIG A. READE Bonipak Produce, Inc., Santa Maria, California ERICT. REITER Reiter Affiliated Companies, Oxnard, California JOSEPH A. RODRIGUEZ The Growers Company, Inc., Somerton, Arizona WILL ROUSSEAU Rousseau Farming Company,Tolleson, Arizona VICTOR SMITH JV Smith Companies,Yuma, Arizona KELLY STRICKLAND Five Crowns, Inc., Brawley, California RYANTALLEY Talley Farms, Arroyo Grande, California BRUCE C.TAYLOR Taylor Farms California, Salinas, California STUARTWOOLF Woolf Farming & Processing, Fresno, California ROBYRACEBURU Wonderful Orchards, Shafter, California
Ryan and Christina Talley
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Ryan acknowledges that like most young adults, at times he might have thought his upward mobility was moving a bit slowly. But in hindsight, he does not believe that was the case. “I couldn’t have planned my journey any better than the one that was built by Uncle Don,” he says. “It was perfect.” Today, Ryan is in charge of row crops, brother Todd is in charge of permanent crops and cousin Brian is Talley Farms’ president. As an aside, Talley Vineyards falls under the umbrella of the family farm but it is owned and operated by late Don and Rosemary’s side of the family. Brian serves as president of Talley Vineyards. Ryan said the growing, packing and shipping operation consists of about 1,500 acres of row crops. In addition, there are the permanent crops, which include avocados, lemons and grapes. The avocados and lemons are sold and marketed through third party companies, with the grapes, of course, forming the core of the wine business. Ryan said it is a bit different having the company’s row crops centered in Arroyo Grande as the operation is isolated from other growing districts in California. There are two other farming families in the same valley but other than that, Ryan said he doesn’t interact with other growers on a regular basis. “Being isolated is both a blessing and a curse,” he said. “As a medium-ish size farm we can’t be on the cutting edge of technology…at the tip of the spear, so to speak. And with only two other farmers in the area, we don’t always see the innovation and new technology going on in the industry.” He said keeping up with new technology is an important part of his job and one of the big advantages of being intimately involved with Western Growers. Ryan inherited that connection from his Uncle Don, who was very involved in the organization, along with Rosemary, for many, many years. Ryan’s first involvement came during the year Don Talley received the association’s Award of Honor in 2004. He said another disadvantage related to the company’s location is its lack of access to labor. Santa Maria, which is 30 miles away, is home to most of the area’s farmworkers. “Why should they drive 30 miles to work for us when they can work closer to home,” he asked rhetorically. “I don’t blame them. So we have had to get very involved with H-2A utilization. We’ve been fortunate that most of the ranches we
have acquired over the years in our valley have come with houses on them. Today we are utilizing all of those houses for our H-2A workers.” On the other hand, Talley Farms has built an impressive array of permanent company employees that have been with the company for decades. He makes it a point to be in the fields as often as possible riding around with the various managers. “Some of these people were here when I was working for the company as a 12 year old,” he said.
changes that will impact us so they can put a face to farming and I can let them know how their changes will impact me.” On the personal front, Ryan and Christina Talley have five children ranging in ages from 14 to 36. Their three oldest are sons—Byron, Grant and Elliott— followed by two daughters, Catherine and Caroline. Grant has joined the family business and is being groomed in a management position in the fresh harvest division, and is also learning as much as he can about organic farming. Byron is currently involved in a family business on his mother’s side, managing mini- storage facilities. Ryan said the three Talley members in his generation established a rule that the fourth generation had to gain experience outside of Talley Farms before joining the family farming company. All of his five children have worked on the farm during summers since they were 12 years old, following a family tradition. “It was an important part of my childhood and taught me a lot of responsibility, including discipline and the value of the dollar,” he said. “Being in agriculture, we have a unique circumstance to pass that on to our children and we are doing so. My kids don’t come and ask if they can have money to buy a $200 pair of jeans. They know how many hours of work it takes to buy those jeans.” For fun, the family enjoy outdoor activities such as spirited family tennis matches. Ryan has also introduced each of his kids to fly fishing and backpacking, two of his favorite pursuits.
Despite hurdles that need to be cleared, Ryan is optimistic about the continued leading role California will play in the specialty crop industry. “I’m a glass half full kind of guy,” he said. “Is it challenging (to grow in California) and are there more and more challenges than there once were? Most definitely. But farmers adapt. That is a very important aspect of who we are in California. And, in fact, that is a very important reason why Don before me, and I am involved in the industry. I want to be a participant (in change) not just a spectator. As chairman, I want to sit down with the people who are proposing
The Talley Family
8 Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2020
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Sharing a healthy future
The Fresh Produce Industry’s New Chief Advocate
Dave Puglia is a political veteran and public policy expert and now the leader of one of the most influential trade associations in agriculture
By Stephanie Metzinger T he blaring ring from the phone pierces through the hotel room, nearly knocking the headset off of its base. A second ring sends vibrations that echo off the walls, nearly knocking Dave Puglia, press secretary to Dan Lungren, out of bed. It’s 4 a.m. on November 6, 1990. Puglia, who is now functioning off of two hours of sleep over the past 48 hours, drowsily picks up the headset, “Hello?” “Get the candidate out of bed, gather the rest of the team and get to his suite as fast as possible. I think we are going to win.” It was veteran GOP political consultant Ken Khachigian with news that immediately jolted Puglia awake. For the past year, Puglia had put in 16 hour days, 7 days a week, dedicating his every waking moment to help Dan Lungren win the open seat for Attorney General of California. Watching the votes roll in on election night rightfully devastated the Lungren team, as their opponent, San Francisco District Attorney Arlo Smith, pulled ahead, built a lead and seemingly secured the victory. One by one, the candidate and his team retreated to their rooms in the hotel. However, that disappointment quickly turned into excitement. Khachigian had been up calling county registrar offices inquiring about the number of absentee votes still to be processed. After crunching the numbers, he projected that Lungren would eke out a win, when all the votes were counted. This was the incredible moment when Puglia and his team realized that thousands of hours of hard work might actually pay off. When the announcement that Lungren had won by three-tenths of a percentage point was officially made several weeks later, Puglia knew that he had won one for the good guys.
If you have never met Dave Puglia, his political acumen and unrelenting passion for influencing public policy will impress you. Whether it’s helping a dedicated political leader win and succeed in elected office or fighting for agricultural water, his intelligent and confident style serves as the foundation for getting the job done. Politics runs in his blood, and he is a walking encyclopedia of names, dates and facts. If you ask him a question related to California or U.S. politics, he will likely know the answer and immediately go into great detail about the historical context. Because of his natural drive to understand the nuances of public policy, some may refer to Puglia as a policy wonk. But he also understands the relational side of policymaking, the relationships that must be developed and nurtured to effect real change. He also understands his role as an advocate for Western Growers (WG) members and is unapologetic in his defense of the industry. “You don’t really change public policy in a bold way when you’re not bold. And as a consultant I had found that many trade associations aren’t bold,” said Puglia, speaking about his initial apprehension to join WG in 2005 as vice president of state government affairs. “However, I learned very quickly from my conversations with Tom [Nassif] and Jasper [Hempel] that this was nothing like the trade associations I had encountered as a consultant. Tom made clear to me that bold action is not only possible here but expected,” Puglia continued. After meeting the board of directors, a group he boasts is comprised of owners and CEOs that are risk-takers with
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incredible fortitude, Puglia learned quickly that his decision to take the job was the right one. The idea of challenging the status quo now drives his vision for the association come February 1, 2020, when he formally assumes the role of WG’s President and CEO. “Ronald Reagan said, ‘ Status quo is Latin for the mess we’re in.’ I will be guided by the premise that one of the greatest dangers in this business is the status quo ,” he said. “Tom Nassif certainly came to this role with an appetite for challenging the status quo, and there is no question that Western Growers and the industry at large are better for it. So I have the benefit of leading a very healthy, vibrant and effective organization. We won’t maintain that strength by being comfortable. We have to come to work every day with a drive to do better. Our members embody an amazing degree of entrepreneurialism and sophistication, and we should share those characteristics by always challenging ourselves to do better.” Puglia notes how the hyper-speed at which information flows is dramatically changing the nature of public policy engagement and advocacy, and this can provide an opportunity for WG to be on the leading edge of that trend. WG has made strides in effectively using social media as a communications platform for public policy and shaping positive consumer opinions and judgments about agriculture and farming. In the future, he plans to expand WG’s reach and influence by using paid and earned media as well as further tap into the digital space to achieve legislative goals that benefit the fresh produce industry. Where will he start? California.
“There’s a saying in politics: ‘As California goes, so goes the nation,’” Puglia notes. Though California is the largest ag production state in the country, it is also the most populous. Most legislators represent dense urban districts and are separated from farming. Many are either willingly or unconsciously influenced by ideological mythology about farms and farm practices. Farmers, especially in the Western United States, are continuously hit with a litany of
Puglia discusses challenges facing agriculture with Senator Dianne Feinstein during the 2019WG Board Meeting inWashington, D.C.
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Photo Left: Puglia at the 2019 Forbes AgTech Summit with Forbes Media Chairman/Editor-in-Chief Steve Forbes; Taylor Farms Chairman/CEO Bruce Taylor; andWG Sr. Vice President, Strategic Planning, Science & Technology Hank Giclas Photo Right: Puglia at the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas, where he was on the California Delegation staff
regulations—many of them at the local and state level—that are making it increasingly difficult to accomplish their noble goal of feeding the world. Examples of these restrictive policies include the elimination of vital crop protection tools (before alternatives are developed), rules that limit access to water and laws that result in exorbitant labor costs and ultimately hurt the earnings potential of farmworkers. The erosion of support for farmers among policymakers across the country is evident, and it’s a macro-level challenge Puglia plans to take head-on. “Year after year, we become more separated and shunned by lawmakers. That is a dangerous existence,” said Puglia. “Western Growers has the obligation and capability to lead the way in cracking the code—not only in California but also in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Washington, D.C.” From a young age, Puglia was bred to lean into the world of politics and public policy. His father, who was an appellate court justice appointed by Ronald Reagan during his tenure as Governor of California, encouraged heated discussions at the dinner table about politics; his mother, an immigrant from postwar Germany, was equally engaged in the verbal sparring. Puglia and his three siblings were continuously pulled into debates about one policy topic or another, but it wasn’t until college when his strong
sense of civic participation kicked in. At Sacramento State University, Puglia felt the pull of public affairs and politics as he abandoned his initial course of study in criminal justice and declared government-journalism as his major. A journalism professor who had worked in the state Capitol as a reporter connected Puglia with a friend working on George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign, and that set in motion a series of formative experiences over the next 17 years. In addition to serving in roles such as
press secretary and senior adviser in the California Attorney General’s Office, he helped build the Sacramento branch of APCO Worldwide (a global public affairs consulting firm), working for clients in several industry sectors. However, some of his most powerful memories and “teachable moments” stemmed from his involvement in various statewide political campaigns. “I remember being introduced as ‘the oldest 33-year-old in America’ while serving as campaign director for Dan
Puglia with Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush in 1992, during his presidency
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Lungren’s run for governor in 1998. That’s when I knew I had really been through the wringer and that my experience working all these campaigns had aged me far beyond my youth,” said Puglia. In fact, those were some of the most trying times in Puglia’s career. He was tapped to run Lungren’s gubernatorial campaign in late 1997, a major shift from the team’s initial plan that he serve as communications director. He had been intimately involved in three statewide campaigns prior, but spearheading a gubernatorial campaign in the most populated state in the country was a whole new ballgame. Puglia took on the challenge of running a $45 million campaign and a staff of 60, while also handling political reporters and editors – all the while managing the candidate. Though the campaign resulted in a loss, Puglia counts it among his most valuable professional experiences. “In any political campaign, you go from crisis to crisis while trying to stay on a longer strategic plan,” says Puglia. “You can learn an incredible amount about this business, about other people, and about yourself, if you can be objective in victory and even more so in defeat.” Puglia joined WG as Arnold Schwarzenegger was in his second year as Governor. In 2007, Schwarzenegger began shaping a multi-facetted legislative package around water policy, and Puglia saw an opportunity for WG to be involved in the development of the legislation. At the time, WG had not been heavily involved in water policy for nearly 25 years. The failure of the Peripheral Canal Act in 1982 had severely divided the ag industry, and WG had largely withdrawn from the field. “I couldn’t believe it,” Puglia said. “Farmers need water, and water policy is going to be made with or without us. That was the moment where I felt very strongly that there was no point being an advocate for this industry without advocating on water policy so I jumped in with Governor Schwarzenegger’s team, knowing that I needed to get smart on water policy really fast.” Puglia, who now had a seat at the table to shape elements of the Schwarzenegger water package, started educating himself by engaging with water experts throughout the state, water agencies and WG board members who had historical knowledge on water project operations and allocations. He worked closely with the
governor and his team to help put forth an $11 billion water bond, which was approved by the Legislature along with five other bills in 2009. It marked the first time since the State Water Project’s initial bond was passed in 1959 that the Legislature approved significant bond funding for surface water projects. Just over 10 years later, and 15 years since joining WG, Puglia now has his hands at the helm. As he begins to chart his course, and by extension the future of the industry, he is reminded of the lessons he learned many years ago in his youth. “My father’s integrity, patience and determination are characteristics that I always admired. Not only do I try to instill those traits in my sons, but I try to live by those values every single day,” Puglia states with conviction. Family is central to Puglia’s life; he is quick to share the latest updates about his twin sons, Ben and Nick, who are attending college. An expert lifelong skier, Puglia relishes every opportunity to ski the mountains of Utah and Colorado with them. Home in Orange County, he and wife Lezlie enjoy friendly pickle ball matches with friends and highly competitive tennis matches with each other (Lezlie has racked up an impressive match win streak, according to Dave, though he won’t say how many). There is little doubt—among the board of directors who unanimously selected Puglia to succeed Nassif, among the WG staff who have admired his professionalism from day one, among his colleagues in the industry and partners in allied industries, among his extensive local and national political network—that these qualities, imparted by his father, have laid the foundation for what will be an incredible tenure as WG’s “chief advocate.” The threats facing the fresh produce industry will only accelerate in the coming decades, and taken together will challenge the continued competitiveness and profitability of WG member companies. Our success as an industry will be measured by our collective ability to pass our family farming operations on to the next generation. In part, this will require the enduring strength of trade associations like WG to act as a common voice, and the vision of extraordinary leaders like Dave Puglia to guide the industry forward, a task that he is both prepared for and passionate about.
Puglia with his wife, Lezlie, and sons, Nick and Ben, in 2005 when he first started at Western Growers and in 2016 during a family outing.
14 Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2020
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12 Agriculture Leaders Who Are Transforming the World
By Stephanie Metzinger T he United States has the largest economy in the world and has retained this impressive position since 1871. The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018 amounted to $20.58 trillion and is only expected to increase in the coming years, with a GDP forecast to exceed nearly $25 trillion in 2024. For comparison, the GDP of China (which ranks as the second- largest economy in the world) reached only $10.43 trillion U.S. dollars in 2018. Though America holds the highest percentage of global wealth, people do not always give much thought to the leading industries—or the leaders behind these industries—that earn the substantial revenue that drives the U.S. economy. This includes agriculture, which produced $388.5 billion in agricultural products in 2017 and contributed over $159 billion in export sales to the U.S. economy in 2018. Many leaders throughout agriculture have had a significant impact on the success of the industry; today, there are countless pioneers who are leading the way in implementing change to help agriculture flourish in the 21 st century and beyond. Here are 12 influencers who are taking the lead in solving issues of concern for our nation’s farmers and ranchers, rural Americans and consumers. These individuals represent only a small sample of the hundreds of agricultural leaders who are shaping solutions to challenges threatening the produce industry’s growth and profitability. WATER SUPPLY Joe Del Bosque: Del Bosque was among the first to utilize social media as a strategy for advocating for water on California farms dating back to the historic drought in 2009. Over the years, his Twitter handle @westsidefarmer has become a source for details on the importance of water deliveries to San Joaquin Valley growers and beyond. In 2014, he tweeted an invitation to President Obama to visit his fallowed fields: “President @ BarackObama, I humbly invite you to Del Bosque Farms for
a discussion on the effect of the drought on California and its people.” A week later, Del Bosque was giving President Obama and California Governor Jerry Brown an in-depth tour around his farm, sharing the detrimental impact the water shortages were having on California agriculture. Today, Del Bosque continues to raise awareness about water deliveries to California farms at rallies or meetings in Sacramento and Washington D.C., and invites media and legislators to Del Bosque Farms to speak about agriculture’s need for a reliable water supply. Steve Patricio: In the mid-1990s, Steve Patricio and his mentor, Jess Telles, launched an orientation program for agribusinesses that focused exclusively on water rights. This was a first for the industry and something that was much needed. In addition to helping farmers understand their rights to water, Patricio has spent countless hours throughout the years in lobbying meetings, press conferences and water debates advocating for a
Steve Patricio joins former California Governor Schwarzenegger at the San Luis Reservoir to advocate for a comprehensive water solution.
16 Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2020
Joe Pezzini shares his experience during the 2006 spinach outbreak with agtech startups in theWG Center for Innovation & Technology.
Carmen Ponce (right) has been a champion for finding solutions to the ag labor shortage.
sustainable supply of water for farmers to grow the food that feeds the state, nation and world. In fact, while he was Western Growers (WG) chairman, he was asked to join then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the San Luis Reservoir to call attention to the need for more surface water storage and stress the need for a comprehensive water solution. FOOD SAFETY Joe Pezzini: Pezzini, president and CEO of Ocean Mist Farms, played an integral role in rebuilding the industry after the E. coli outbreak in spinach in 2006. He served as the first chairman of the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA) and was one of the people most responsible for creating this unprecedented organization. During the crisis, Pezzini, along with other industry advocates such as WG, worked with regulators to learn what steps needed to be taken to get the leafy greens industry back in business. The industry took it upon itself to raise the bar for food safety practices and created the LGMA, which has since been on the leading edge of science-based food safety standards. Ron Ratto: Over the years, Ron Ratto has implemented progressive farming practices and invested in the latest technological advancements to enhance food safety at Ratto Bros. This includes a product recall program designed to trace back, trace forward and, if necessary, recall any products that may have food safety concerns from the farm or the packinghouse, as well as an Integrated
Pest Management Program to prevent food adulteration by pests or pesticides. Additionally, Ratto has made food safety the foundation of his workforce, ensuring that all employees—beyond the Quality Assurance/Food Safety Team—have quality-related responsibilities. LABOR Carmen Ponce: Ponce, who currently serves as the vice president and general counsel of labor at Tanimura & Antle, is an advocate for finding solutions to the chronic
labor shortage that is jeopardizing the future of agriculture in California, Arizona, and across the country. She works closely with numerous organizations to share her knowledge about the H-2A program including compliance, best practices and possible long-term solutions for easing the cumbersome process. In addition to managing all employment related legal matters at T&A, she has been involved with numerous boards dedicated to improving labor relations. These include the Center for Community Advocacy—an organization that provides education, orientation and legal support to farmworkers—and WG’s Labor Committee. Sonny Rodriguez: Joseph Rodriguez (Sonny) actively touts the need for Congress to pass immigration reform legislation, including a guest worker program for agriculture, which would provide the industry with a reliable, legal source of labor to provide the nation’s food supply. In addition to being vocal on the need for agricultural immigration reform, he serves as president/CEO of Arizona- based The Growers Company, a farm labor contractor that provides hundreds of seasonal workers to work vegetable fields in Arizona and California, from thinning and weeding to harvesting the crops. ENVIRONMENT Tom Mulholland: Mulholland is perfecting the use of beneficial insects and integrated pest management to reduce
Ron Ratto has implemented progessive farming practices to enhance food safety.
JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2020
Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com
dependency on pesticides. He has built a large-scale insectary that houses millions of beneficial insects, Aphytis melinus; these insects, which are available to the industry, are one weapon used to protect citrus trees from the California Red Scale pest while reducing the amount of chemicals and pesticides used in orchards.
Harold McClarty, pictured here with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and Congressman David Valadao during a tour of HMC Farms, has been a long-time advocate for market access.
Brian Antle: Antle was the visionary who brought PlantTape—an automated transplanting system—from Spain to the United States in 2014 for technical development and commercialization. This revolutionary machine allows farmers to plant more acres per day. With PlantTape, growers can plant 20 acres a day using three people—compared to 10 acres per day with 16 people using traditional transplanting methods—as well as use 25 percent less fertilizer, 20 percent less water and 8 percent less pesticides on the crop— all while increasing yields. INTERNATIONAL TRADE Harold McClarty: McClarty, CEO at HMC Farms, has been a long-time advocate for market access and competiveness both domestically and internationally. In addition to serving as chairman for WG’s International Trade/Trade Practices Committee, he is also the former chairman of the California Fresh Fruit Association and its Marketing Committee where he
played an integral role in administering the Stone Fruit Mexico Export Program. Additionally, in 2013, HMC Farms was the first to send California peaches and nectarines to Australia. “For years, HMC Farms has worked closely with Marcy Martin of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, as well as U.S. and Australian government agencies, so that the California stone fruit industry would be able to ship their product to a country previously unavailable,” said McClarty, in a Growing Produce article. Steve Barnard: In addition to being founder of Mission Produce—the largest packer, shipper, and exporter of fresh avocados in the world—Barnard has made waves in opening up international markets for avocados. Founded only 36 years ago, Mission Produce has impressively expanded its operations to Chile, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, Columbia, Canada, China and Europe. Earlier this year, Mission Produce announced plans to significantly increase its avocado production in Columbia over the next two years. Barnard’s goal is to plant an additional 1,000-1,500 hectares of avocado trees in Colombia, which would supply the farm’s domestic and international markets such as the United States and Europe. Each of these leaders have not only positively impacted their companies, but have helped bring about significant changes in the industry. The vision and innovation of these individuals, as well as countless others within WG’s membership, will ensure the continued success of the fresh produce industry into the coming decades.
Tom Mulholland has been on the cutting edge of lower pesticide use using innovative integrated pest management models.
Casey Houweling: Houweling is dedicated to delivering a full complement of tomatoes, while constantly innovating to reduce its environmental footprint. Houweling’s Group has three cogeneration engine rooms, which generate electricity so the farm can utilize waste to promote the growth of tomato plants in their greenhouses. Each engine generates 4.3 megawatts of electricity and any electricity that exceeds Houweling Group’s needs is exported to the grid. The cogeneration system captures heat in water and circulates what is needed in the greenhouses; the exhaust gas is cleaned up in the catalytic converter process and then inserted into the greenhouses as food grade CO 2 . TECHNOLOGY Frank Maconachy: For nearly three decades, Maconachy has guided Ramsay Highlander Inc. to become a world- renowned manufacturer of specialized harvesting aids for the specialty crop industry. He oversees all operations of Ramsay Highlander, including design and manufacturing of their current machinery line and ongoing R&D, and works closely with fresh produce farmers on new machine designs that specialize in self-propelled harvesting systems. Through Maconachy’s leadership, Ramsay Highlander now stands at the forefront of labor-assisting harvest technologies.
Brian Antle brought PlantTape—a revolutionary automated transplanting system—to the United States.
18 Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2020
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CALIFORNIA MEMBER PROFILE
Mary Thompson CEO Bonduelle Fresh Americas
Member Since 1973 (originally joined as Ready Pac)
Value-Added Pioneer Moving Forward Under New Banner
The Back Story: The Ready Pac brand was established about a half century ago as founder Dennis Gertmenian’s story of chopping, cleaning, and bagging lettuce from a bathtub is a well-known part of the value-added sector’s folklore. While the purchase by Bonduelle a couple of years ago has led to the re-branding of the title on the building—Bonduelle Fresh Americas—Ready Pac is still the brand on the product. Single-serve bowls and other fresh vegetable and salad-meal solutions are at the core of its business. And it is the market leader in the single serve with protein sector. CEO Mary Thompson said the company’s primary goal has not changed since Bonduelle acquired it and that is to offer consumers healthy choices in both the meal and snack categories. She said the company continually looks at new opportunities including those in the “grab and go” category. Ready Pac’s signature Bistro Bowl is the company’s leading product, but Thompson said the value-added pioneer is exploring other options in which it can add healthy solutions for consumers—especially for working moms, which is a group that includes her. Bonduelle’s Deep Roots : Bonduelle is a family business that was established in 1853. Its mission is to be the world leader in well-living through plant-based foods. Prioritizing innovation and long-term vision, the group is diversifying its operations and geographical presence. Its vegetables, grown on close to 300,000 acres all over the world, are sold in 100 countries under various brand names and through various distribution channels and forms. Social Responsibility: While Bonduelle has navigated a seamless transition from Ready Pac with
its basic product line, suppliers, and customers intact, the company has introduced a more robust social responsibility initiative. “That is something Bonduelle brought to the table,” said Thompson, noting that it strikes home for her. She revealed that all three of her children (teens or younger) are well-versed in the climate change issue, with her middle daughter being especially passionate about the concept. Seemingly, it is millennials and younger folks fueling the public consciousness, but 174-year-old Bonduelle is equally proactive. In mid-October, Bonduelle Fresh Americas published
20 Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2020
more than a handful of years in the headquarters office In Minneapolis. That’s significant for many reasons, one of which is, she met her husband, Bob Knuth, there. “We joke that he grew up in Nebraska and I grew up in a suburb of New York City, so the only place we could have met is Minneapolis.” And, indeed they did at a dinner party. But Thompson’s Cargill career continued unabated with senior positions in several of the company’s businesses, including, most recently, a three-year stint as president and managing director of Cargill Meats Europe in the United Kingdom. She came to Bonduelle Fresh Americas from Cargill, moving to California and joining the value- added salad company in October of 2018.
The California Experience : Mary said her husband was in charge of the move from England to California and has been “the general contractor” in getting the family settled in their new environment. He soon will seek a return to the work force in the non-profit world, which has consumed most of his career. “We are loving California,” Mary said. “There is so much natural beauty. Of course we knew about the ocean and the coast but the mountains are also stunning.” The family lives in Pasadena with the San Gabriel Mountains overhead. “We are outdoor people and love the opportunities here including biking and running. We love to ski and in fact, went skiing on the Fourth of July.”
its corporate social responsibility strategy, identifying the goals the company will target over the next five years. “We have long been committed to ensuring the well-being of people and our environment,” said Thompson in a press release. “Our company is driven by this commitment, and publishing these goals—and inviting our customers and consumers to join us on our journey— are exciting next steps for us.” The goals support the objectives launched by Bonduelle in 2011 as part of its 2025 strategic vision. These objectives include promoting sustainable agriculture and reducing the firm’s environmental impacts, as well as feeding people well and feeding them sustainably. The updated strategic goals cover issues ranging from water use and packaging to human rights and labor. For example, the firm is planning to reduce water intensity and energy use by 25 percent in all of its production plants, achieve zero waste in all of its facilities, and transition to a packaging portfolio that is 100 percent recyclable, reusable, or compostable. A Rural Urbanite : CEOThompson has worked and lived near Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, and in England. But she was born in Texas, married a farm boy from Nebraska, and her family hails from the rural South. So she self identifies as both country and city. Mary grew up mostly in Connecticut, the daughter of an engineer, and earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard in Boston before attaining her Masters at Columbia University in New York City. After college, she first worked for the East West Institute and then for Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. At both stops she wore the Director of Development title with the employment spanning several years at each place. Lengthy Cargill Career : In total, Mary spent 25 years with Cargill, Incorporated, a global business with many entities, with its core focus being the trading, purchasing, and distribution of agricultural commodities. Her career included postings in executive positions for many of the entities and divisions, with
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