How Farmers Have Long Respected — and Fought to Save — the Mighty Colorado

Jack Vessey Vessey & Co.



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WESTERN GROWER & SHIPPER Published Since 1929 Volume XCIV | Number 2

To enhance the competitiveness and profitability of Western Growers members

Dave Puglia President & CEO Western Growers davep@wga.com



How Farmers Have Long Respected—and Fought to Save—the Mighty Colorado

Editor Ann Donahue 949.302.7600 | adonahue@wga.com Contributors Cory Lunde 949.885.2264 | clunde@wga.com Michelle Rivera 949.885.4778 | mrivera@wga.com Kara Timmins 949.885.4786 | kmtimmins@wga.com Ellie Amesse eamesse@wga.com Circulation Marketing 949.885.2248 | marketing@wga.com Advertising Sales Dana Davis 302.750.4662 | dana@tygermarketing.com


The Need for Science-Minded Employees Grows in Agriculture

26 Want an Intern? Western Growers’ Next Gen Ag Workers Program Can Help



Agrology: Turning Predictions into Prescriptions

Netafim USA: Technology Today to Solve Tomorrow’s Problems 42 Farm Dogs and Barn Cats of Western Growers



Western Grower & Shipper ISSN 0043-3799, Copyright © 2023 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. 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.


17 Director Profile 22 WG Member Welcome & Anniversaries 32 Updates from the WGCIT 36 WG News You Can Use 39 Contact Us 40 Connections 41 Inside Western Growers

4 President’s Notes 6 Agriculture & the Law 10 Advocacy | California 12 Science 14 Western Growers Assurance Trust 15 Innovation 16 California Member Profile



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Hey Sacramento, Still Not an Exodus? By Dave Puglia, President and CEO, Western Growers

About a year ago, demographers and others—notably U-Haul—reported data that strongly suggested a stream of people leaving California. It was no shock to those frustrated by the policies and practices emanating from Sacramento and many local governments. I wrote about it here, noting that the very earliest indications of a trend often present that last good opportunity for politicians to take notice and course correct; waiting for incontrovertible proof that the trend is real means fewer options.

Representatives of the state’s business community, vastly outnumbered Republican state legislators and even some of their Democrat colleagues tried to get the attention of those in power, but by and large were ignored. A veteran Los Angeles Times columnist at the time asserted, “There is no exodus.” Nothing to see here! Collectively they sounded like Sergeant Schultz from the old television series “Hogan’s Heroes” who insisted to his superiors, “I know nothing! Nothing!” despite having intimate knowledge of the security violations of Colonel Hogan and his crafty band of Allied prisoners of war. It’s getting harder for the Sgt. Schultz characters in Sacramento to plead ignorance. New data released in February confirms that a heck of lot of Californians loaded up the U-Haul and headed out. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in February that between 2020 and 2022, the number of Californians fleeing the state outnumbered those coming in by nearly 900,000. Even in a state of 39 million souls, that is an exodus. The effects are sure to be even worse than the numbers suggest. We can assume the refugees share at least this in common: They are taxpayers. The weight of California’s painfully high taxes, sky-high housing prices and energy costs powerfully motivates working families to depart. In contrast, the state’s very wealthy are better able to accommodate those costs, though certainly some have bailed out. California is home to about 30 percent of the nation’s homeless, a cohort that compels major public expenditures. Beyond the homeless population, California has a large and growing population dependent on public health and other services. Combine a stampede of taxpayers heading to other states and a large population tapping public programs and eventually, as Margaret Thatcher warned, “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.” A glimmer of hope arrived recently in the form of an executive order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom, directing state water authorities to retain water in our reservoirs that would otherwise be released to rivers and out to sea to satisfy

environmental rules. Activist environmental groups went ballistic, as they always do when they don’t get everything they demand. Why did Newsom do this? The motivations of politicians are easy to speculate about, and equally easy to get wrong. But perhaps Newsom realizes that the rigid and punishing rules imposed on our water system are increasing economic and social despair in the Central Valley while failing to deliver the ecosystem benefits touted by environmental activists to justify them. And, hopefully, Gavin Newsom has drawn a connection between these punitive and failed water policies and the U-Haul caravans retracing – in reverse – the paths of previous generations who sought greater freedom and economic opportunity in the Golden State. *** On February 9, we learned of the passing of Allan Zaremberg. After serving as chief legislative aide to Governors Deukmejian and Wilson, Allan led the California Chamber of Commerce as CEO from 1998 to his retirement in 2021. I was fortunate to work with Allan throughout my tenure with Western Growers and before as a consultant and political appointee in the 1990s. Allan was rightly remembered by many for his dedication to and belief in the powers of the private sector to serve the needs of society. Less prevalent in the remembrances, however, is something more poignant to me. Zaremberg’s passing recalls a better era in Sacramento, one defined by compromise and practicality in policy making, undergirded by shared confidence in private enterprise as the strongest agent for positive economic and social outcomes. Suffice to say, such is not the case today. Perhaps the pendulum will swing back, but those dedicated to advocating for the business community know we must be far more aggressive as long as the interest groups that dominate Sacramento, and the lawmakers aligned with them, continue on their current path. Allan Zaremberg was an honorable and dedicated advocate for California’s business community. May his example live on.



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I grew with

John Gardiner Class 51

Owner/partner of Gardiner Farms, a third-generation family farm that produces and processes almonds, pistachios, honey and beef.

“The Ag Leadership Program helped develop my leadership skills and capacity by showing me that my comfort zone was causing more problems than I realized. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable has now opened my world to endless opportunities. “With Ag Leadership, I learned that leadership allows for style variations. This awareness, and the ability to transition between styles, has helped my effectiveness in all aspects of my life – work, ag industry, family and community. “The program was a life-changing journey. I will continue to focus on active listening and conflict resolution because now I have the important leadership tools to fall back on when I find myself struggling in these areas.”

Since 1970, more than 1,400 California Agricultural Leadership Program fellows have become lifelong leaders who individually and collectively act as a catalyst for a vibrant agricultural community and make a significant difference in the agricultural industry, their businesses, communities and families.

Read John’s story and learn more about Ag Leadership opportunities, our alumni and fellows at agleaders.org .

New California Employment Laws for 2023 By Teresa McQueen, Corporate Counsel Governor Gavin Newsom was active at the end of 2022, signing several significant new employment- related laws. Of the 1,166 bills sent for signature, 977 were signed and 169 vetoed. Ninety employment- related bills were signed with 27 vetoed. Below is a non-exhaustive summary of several of the laws affecting employers in the state. All bills, except as otherwise noted, took effect Jan. 1, 2023. SB 1162 Pay Transparency

in be available in English and the top seven non- English languages used by limited-English-proficient adults in California, including Punjabi. AB 1949 Bereavement Leave Requires employers with five or more employees to provide up to five days of unpaid bereavement leave within three months of the death of a family member. AB 1041 Designated Person Expands “family care and medical leave” under California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and “family member” under the paid sick leave law to include a “designated person,” defined as “any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” A designated person may be identified by the employee at the time leave is requested. Employees may be limited to one designated person per 12-month period. SB 1044 Emergency Condition Prohibits adverse action against any employee for leaving or refusing to report to work because of an “emergency condition,” defined as disaster or extreme peril to the safety at the workplace caused by natural forces or a crime, or an evacuation order due to a natural disaster or crime at the workplace, an employee’s home, or their child’s school. Pandemics are specifically excluded from the definition. Adverse actions include preventing checking mobile devices to seek emergency assistance, assess the safety, or communicate with a Gives unions the option to represent agricultural workers by either vote by mail (if the employer enters a “labor peace compact”) or through a newly created card check mechanism, rather than in-person secret ballot process. Signing was conditioned on a letter signed by the United Farm Workers President and the California Labor Federation agreeing to the passage of “clarifying language” eliminating the mail-in option, and installing card check as the sole alternative to secret ballot elections; changes to be made during the 2023 legislative session. To be repealed, by its terms, as of Jan. 1, 2028. person to confirm their safety. AB 2183 Ag Labor Relations

Amends pay data reporting duties to include median and mean hourly rates within all job categories by race, ethnicity, and gender, and imposes penalties on employers for non-compliance. Amends current EEO-1 “same or substantially similar” pay data reporting practices (100+ employees) and requires qualified employers to submit a pay data report directly to the Civil Rights Department. Reports are now due on or before the second Wednesday of May. Employers with 100+ employees hired through labor contractors must submit a separate pay data report for those employees. Multi-establishment employers are no longer required to submit consolidated reports but must continue to submit a report for each establishment. Significant civil penalties imposed for non-compliance. Requires employers, upon request, to provide employees with the pay scale for the employees’ current position. Employers with 15+ employees must also include the pay scale for a position in any job posting, including postings with third parties. Pay scale means the salary or hourly wage range that the employer reasonably expects to pay for the position. Records of each employee’s job title/wage rate history must be maintained for the duration of the employment plus three years after termination of employment. AB 2693 COVID-19 Exposure Eliminates notice requirements to local public health agencies related to COVID-19 outbreak. Eliminates CA Department of Public Heath posting requirements relating to COVID-19. Extends exposure provisions until Jan. 1, 2024, and modifies employer notification requirements. AB 1751 Workers’ Compensation: COVID-19 AB 1751 extends to Jan. 1, 2024, the rebuttable presumption that an employee’s illness resulting from COVID-19 was sustained in the course of employment for purposes of workers’ compensation benefits. AB 2068 Cal/OSHA: Postings Requires that specified notices be posted when the Division of Occupational Safety and Health issues a workplace health or safety citation or order be written



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Choose the R2000WF Rotator ® for High Uniformity & Superior Germination


Other great products from Nelson Irrigation include:





Use Drain Checks to eliminate crop wash out from partially pressurized sprinklers during system start up and shut down. Choose regulator option to ensure high uniformity and even flow.

Explore the 800 & 1000 Series Control Valves for efficiency plus heady-duty re- liability. The ACV200 provides air relief, vacuum relief, and continuous air release under pressure.

Automate and remotely control and monitor your irrigation system from anywhere with our new TWIG ® Wireless Controls mobile app and next generation TWIG ® components.

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AB 2188 Discrimination: Use of Cannabis (January 1, 2024)

a subpoena, unless the subpoena is based on another state’s laws that would interfere with an individual’s abortion rights. SB 523 Contraceptive Equity Act of 2022 Expands Fair Employment and Housing Act protected classifications to include “reproductive health decisionmaking.” This includes, but is not limited to, decisions to use/access a particular drug, device, product or medical service for reproductive health. Prohibits, as a condition of employment, continued employment, or a benefit of employment, the disclosure of information relating to an applicant’s/employee’s reproductive health decisionmaking. The bill also requires that health benefits cover contraceptives and vasectomies as of January 2024. Conclusion California employers are encouraged to review their policies and practices to ensure they are following the State’s new employment laws.

WESTERN GROWERS OFFICERS – 2023 ALBERT KECK, Chair STUART WOOLF, Vice Chair NEILL CALLIS, Treasurer DON CAMERON, Executive Secretary DAVE PUGLIA, President & CEO DIRECTORS – 2023 GEORGE J. ADAM Innovative Produce, Santa Maria, California CRAIG ALAMEDA Topflavor Farms Inc, Salinas, California ALEXANDRA ALLEN Main Street Produce, Santa Maria, California CHAD AMARAL D’Arrigo Bros Co of California, Salinas, California KEVIN S. ANDREW Illume Agriculture, 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 BRIAN BERTELSEN Cove Ranch Management, Reedley, California GEORGE BOSKOVICH III Boskovich Farms, Oxnard, California RODNEY BRAGA Braga Ranch, Soledad, California NEILL CALLIS Turlock Fruit Company, Turlock, California DON CAMERON Terranova Ranch, Inc., Helm, California EDWIN A. CAMP D. M. Camp & Sons, Bakersfield, California CAROL CHANDLER Chandler Farms LP, Selma, California LAWRENCE W. COX Lawrence Cox Ranches, Brawley, California STEPHEN F. DANNA Danna Farms, Inc., Yuba City, California THOMAS DEARDORFF II Deardorff Family Farms, Oxnard, California TIMOTHY ESCAMILLA Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc, Monterey, California CATHERINE A. FANUCCHI Tri-Fanucchi Farms Inc., Bakersfield, California DAVID L. GILL Rio Farms, King City, California ROBERT GIRAGOSIAN Kern Ridge Growers, LLC, Arvin, California BRANDON A. GRIMM Grimmway Farms, Arvin, California JOHN JACKSON Beachside Produce, LLC, Nipomo, California A. G. KAWAMURA Orange County Produce, LLC, Fullerton, California ALBERT KECK Hadley Date Gardens, Thermal, California J.P. LABRUCHERIE LaBrucherie Produce, El Centro, California STEPHEN MARTORI, JR. Martori Farms, Scottsdale, Arizona HAROLD MCCLARTY HMC Farms, Kingsburg, California TOM MULHOLLAND Mulholland Citrus, Orange Cove, California DOMINIC J. MUZZI, JR. Muzzi Family Farms, LLC, Moss Landing, California THOMAS M. NUNES The Nunes Company, Inc., Salinas, California STEPHEN F. PATRICIO Westside Produce, Firebaugh, California JOHN POWELL JR. Peter Rabbit Farms, Coachella, California RON RATTO Ratto Bros. Inc., Modesto, California CRAIG A. READE Bonipak Produce, Inc., Santa Maria, California ERIC T. REITER Reiter Affiliated Companies, Oxnard, California KYLE RICHARDSON Garry Richardson Farms, Bakersfield, California JOSEPH A. RODRIGUEZ The Growers Company, Inc., Somerton, Arizona BRUCE TALBOTT Talbott’s Mountain Gold, LLP, Palisade, Colorado RYAN TALLEY Talley Farms, Arroyo Grande, California BRUCE C. TAYLOR Taylor Farms California, Salinas, California JACK VESSEY Vessey and Company Inc, Holtville, California MIKE WAY Prime Time International, Coachella, California STUART WOOLF Woolf Farming & Processing, Fresno, California ROB YRACEBURU Wonderful Orchards, Shafter, California

The new law protects California workers from discrimination if they use cannabis off the job and away from the workplace. Prohibits employment-related decisions based on a drug screen test finding the person to have nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites (NCM) in their blood, hair, urine or other bodily fluids. The presence of this metabolite does not indicate current impairment, only that the worker or applicant has recently consumed cannabis. The law does not impact an employer’s right to conduct drug screening. The law applies to most employers, except the building and construction industries, and workers who are subject to federal drug testing requirements. AB 2091 Reproductive Health (September 27, 2022) Prohibits employers and healthcare plans from releasing information identifying or relating to a person seeking/ obtaining an abortion except pursuant to


818 • 541 • 0124





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Water Penetrant Penmax will greatly increase water penetration, flush salts away from the root zone, increase the beneficial microbial base, and reduce clouding and crusting.

Get the Most Out of Your Irrigation Water Penmax Water Penetrant

Competitive Products

Non-Ionic No pH effect on soils No compounds formed with hard water Less product required Penmax enhances the activity of soil organisms Improves and balances the soil ecology Preserves soil moisture by minimizing water evaporation Allows water to move deeper and laterally in soils Helps carry excess problem salts away from roots Creates an improved root/ soil interface

Ionic pH control may be required Amount required depends on the water treated Adversely affects the soil ecology Waterline contamination Detrimental to beneficial microbial populations High usage rates

Penmax is most effective when applied to the first irrigation set followed by sulfuric acid in the second irrigation set. Penmax will remove sodium and other salts from the soil profile and move water down 8 to 10 feet and 12 feet across. Sulfuric acid can be added with less chance of tie ups with salts to move deeper in the soil profile. Application With Sulfuric Acid


Info@WesternNutrientsCorp.com WesternNutrientsCorp.com

Western Nutrients Corporation 245 Industrial Street Bakersfield, California 93307


The Need to Place Food Security Front and Center in Policy By Matthew Allen, Vice President, State Government Affairs

Admittedly, I’m a light sleeper. This combined with the fact that I’m an avowed coffee drinker make for many nights that I’m left to my own quiet thoughts as my family peacefully drifts off to sleep. Although I realize that I need to get back to a regular sleep schedule, I’ve grown increasingly accustomed to this being a time for me to ponder legislation and regulations that are currently affecting or, if passed, would affect California’s agricultural industry and what strategic and tactical responses Western Growers should undertake to limit negative consequences and instead encourage positive outcomes. Food security is the topic that has been front and center in my thoughts lately. The more thought I give it, the more worried I get. In fact, I’m asking myself on every piece of legislation that gets introduced: “What impact would this legislation or these regulations have on food security?”

Food security is a broad topic that encompasses national security, economic security and personal well-being. I’m increasingly concerned, if not convinced, that not enough attention is being given to this basic and needed function—the ability of farmers to adequately provide for this nation’s food supply in the future. By and large, we’ve been living through a time of plenty where anything that we would like to eat is readily available. There is a seemingly endless array of commodities for us to enjoy as well as export. Given this, it’s natural human behavior for us to not worry about the future and just take for granted that the food system in place today will simply remain into the future. I’m guilty of taking it for granted, too. The actions that California continues to take in policy areas including labor, water, crop protection and air quality are all factors that are adding unnecessary challenges to our ability to maintain strong food systems. Shouldn’t California officials be working with our industry to find reasonable and effective solutions for our labor shortages, allocating

more funding for construction of new water storage systems, incentivizing additional (not fewer) crop protection tools and focusing on ensuring that we can move our crops out of the field and to consumer tables should there be a failure of our electrical grid? The answer is a clear and resounding “Yes.” To that end, WG advocates are asking the “How?” question in all of our meetings with legislators and regulators, whether it’s on the state’s sustainable pest management goals, more water storage, or on the overall carbon neutrality mandate. It’s one thing to set the goal and another thing entirely to achieve it in such a manner as to not disrupt business operations and livelihoods. Getting this right is crucial. We have to find a successful pathway forward for future generations. Yes, that’s an often-used phrase, but true nonetheless. The primacy of food security should be driving the state’s policy considerations instead of virtue signaling press conferences and bill proposals that assuage the needs of today but ignores the realities of tomorrow.



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Advertorial 2023 Clean Energy Thoughts … From a WGA Innovation Center Pioneer

by Elliot Jaramillo www.ConceptCleanEnergy.com

In August of 2022, Congress passed the Inflation Recovery Act (“IRA”) of 2022. Over the next 10 years, the IRA Act will allocate approximately $369 Billion Dollars to “Energy Security and Climate Change.” A primary goal of this legislation is to increase clean energy production and

reduce carbon emissions roughly 40% by 2030. By any measure, $369,000,000,000 is a substantial amount of money. The unprecedented opportunity for Western Growers ’ members is that, unlike so many other legislative bills, where large government investments have been earmarked for special interests or otherwise accessible to only select (large) corporations, the capital allocated by this IRA legislation is funded primarily in the form of simple to understand and simple to utilize Investment Tax Credits. This means that these IRA funds are fully accessible to any person or company, large or small, willing to make an investment in qualifying clean energy, which includes solar assets. Prior to the passage of this Inflation Recovery Act, Federal tax credits for solar energy were scheduled to be reduced to 22% in 2023, then further step down to just 10% in 2024. Large utility companies, such as PG&E, were banking on this funding reduction in hopes of further slowing down the development of investor owned clean energy. With the passage of the IRA, however, the Federal Government has increased the Investment Tax Credit to 30% for the next 10 years (+) plus a 10% BONUS tax credit for projects that utilize American products and meet certain domestic manufacturing guidelines. This means qualifying solar energy projects can now earn a whopping 40% Federal Tax Credit. To be clear, unlike a tax deduction, this Federal Investment Tax Credit (“ITC”) is a direct dollar-for- dollar reduction in project cost. As part of the IRA, the Federal Government has also made it simpler to allocate these valuable tax credits to the entities or individuals within a company or farming operation who may need them most. The new IRA40% Investment Tax Credit provides WGA taxpayers with an unprecedented opportunity to leverage smart, proactive investment and tax planning to drastically reduce Federal liabilities over the next decade.

For our product, this 40% Federal Tax Credit is a game-changer. Over the past six years of being a WGA Innovation Center company, our team has worked closely with leading WGA members to develop an exciting product that is now being rolled out nationally in partnership with Nucor steel, the largest steel company in the USA. The product, PowerShingle ® , solves a major industry challenge, enabling us to build solar installations in the form of highly useful elevated canopies and provide massive amounts of reliable, low-cost clean energy, all without taking any land out of production. Yes… solar energy is a fantastic resource. But today’s solar installations often require large swaths of land to produce meaningful amounts of electricity. PowerShingle ® , on the other hand, can generate 1MW of clean power (enough to run an efficient cooler operation) in as little as 1.5 acres. It can also be scaled to provide power for many off-grid and remote farming operations where traditional grid power would simply be too costly. By combining Nucor’s pre-engineered metal building expertise with PowerShingle’s cutting edge solar technology, we are able to deploy large installations and design solutions to meet your operations and provide multiple benefits of shade, shelter, storage and clean power for virtually any farming operations. PowerShingle ® is proudly 100% manufactured in America and can help WGA members meet Inflation Reduction Act guidelines while providing an elegant, beautiful solution that will enhance virtually any farming operation. ------ Elliot Jaramillo is the CEO of Concept Clean Energy and nearly a decade long WGA member. Elliot loves talking with WGA farmers about energy challenges. For more info, or to reach out to Elliot directly, feel free to call or email him at: (510) 813-0935 / elliot@conceptcleanenergy.com

What are the Best Management Practices On-Farm After a Flood? By Afreen Malik, Science Programs Director

On Feb. 1, 2023, Western Growers, in collaboration with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, held a webinar titled “On-Farm Flood Management and Response.” The webinar was offered to answer important flood management questions and was presented by Dr. Ali Stickland, FDA Biologist; Dr. Erin Leigh DiCaprio, Associate Professor UC Davis Cooperative Extension; Vivian Soffa, County Executive Director Farm Service Agency; and Angie Ramirez, Food Safety and Organic Compliance Manager, Triangle Farms. After considering these factors, a food safety professional should assess the level of impact and mitigation and management strategies.

The speakers addressed best management practices and mitigation strategies that may be applied on-farm after a flood event. They also discussed technical resources and emergency disaster assistance programs that can help farmers address flood related challenges. Here are important learnings in Q&A format: 1. How does the FDA define flooding? Flooding is the flowing or overflowing of a field with water outside a grower’s control. Pooled water (for example, after rainfall) that is not reasonably likely to cause contamination of the edible portion of fresh produce is not considered flooding. 2. What environmental factors and commodity characteristics should growers consider when evaluating the impact of flooding to crops? Consider the following when conducting a flood assessment: a. The source of flood water (runoff from adjacent land use, overflow from nearby stream, overflow from nearby irrigation canal, or pooling from overhead rain) b. Consider the type of crop and whether edible portion of the crop has potentially contacted flood water—edible portion is close to ground or in contact with flood water (spinach/ lettuce) or edible portion is on a stalk, away from and not in contact with flood water (broccoli/cauliflower/artichoke). In some cases, your crop may be too young to have any edible portion developed. In this case, the risk of contamination would be considered low. c. Stage of growth (very young with no edible crop or mature crop, close to harvest) d. Level of inundation—how flooded is the field/ crop? e. Duration of flooding—how long before the water receded from the field? f. Results of testing (water source, soil, etc.)

3. What mitigation and management strategies should growers implement after a flood event? Growers should consider the following mitigation strategies post-flooding to minimize the risk of cross contamination: a. Segregate flooded crops from non-flooded crops using visible markers such as flags b. Establish a 30-foot buffer between flooded and non-flooded areas c. Avoid movement of people/equipment between flooded and non-flooded areas d. Where movement can’t be avoided, use sanitation protocols to prevent cross-contamination e. Protect wellheads and other water sources. If water sources have been impacted, take appropriate corrective actions and test the water source before use to verify water quality is suitable for intended use. 4. Who can growers contact for assistance with flood damage assessment? Growers can contact their local Farm Service Agency, extension specialists and agricultural trade associations for assistance. Western Growers and other entities have online resources: PowerPoint Presentation (wga.s3.amazonaws. com) On Farm Flood Management and Response Webinar | February 1st, 2023 – YouTube Assistance Resources for Farmers Impacted by Recent Flooding | Western Growers (wga.com) 5. How long must a grower wait to replant a crop after flooding has occurred? What are the requirements for conventional crops? What are the requirements for organic crops? a. Per FDA guidance, a waiting period depends on conditions, but state/LGMA/research



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Not flood water • Pooled water in a field caused by rain or a problem with an irrigation system

Flood water • Water entering a field from open water sources outside of the grower’s control • Overflow from runoff

Runoff ditch

Runoff ditch


Slope-generated flow Does it cross a point source?

Ag water distribution system

Ag water distribution system

Irrigation canal

Irrigation canal

River or creek overflow

DiCaprio, Erin. A Brief Overview of On-Farm Food Safety Management Following Flooding. Feb. 2023. PowerPoint Presentation (wga.s3.amazonaws.com).

recommendations are to wait 30-60 days to allow the soil to dry out. This wait period can be shortened through soil testing, allowing growers to plant earlier. 6. What labs and methods can I use for soil testing? Contact local labs to determine if soil testing services are provided and to confirm they are using validated methods. Review internal lab protocols where applicable. For example, if AOAC validated methods are not available, review the lab’s internal validation protocols. Work with your lab to determine how to collect your soil sample. 7. When should a soil sample be collected post-flooding? How long should I wait before collecting a soil sample? Growers should allow the soil to sufficiently dry before collecting a soil sample. Growers can work the soil to expedite the drying process. Equipment used to work the soil should be properly sanitized after use to prevent cross contamination. 8. Can I divert my flooded crop to animal feed? a. In certain cases, yes. Crops must be

tested for mold, bacteria, chemicals and heavy metals. Contact the public affairs specialists located at your nearest FDA field office for more information. 9. What are the possible contaminants in floodwater? Flood water may contain: • Microbiological pathogens • Chemical contaminants (pesticides, heavy metals, petroleum products) • Sewage from nearby treatment plants Although organic production wasn’t specifically covered in this webinar, here are some commonly asked questions related to the impact of flooding to organic crops. Are certified organic lands no longer organic after inundation? Any parcels flooded will maintain their certification until surrendered, suspended, or revoked. Crops on the parcel may not be eligible for sale as organic if prohibited materials were in the flood water. What needs to be done to re-certify organic land after flood inundation? Growers whose farms have been flooded and are concerned that prohibited materials may have been in the flood waters should notify their certifier as

soon as possible. Certifiers will work with growers to determine the potential for contamination and next steps. In general, certifiers view unintended water from flood as a drift situation and would require that any contaminated crop not be sold as organic but most likely there would not be a requirement for a three-year transition. However, corrective actions should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to make that determination. What about food safety concerns with this inundation, such as the introduction of feces to waters, that may impact microbial loads (e.g., E. coli outbreaks associated with crop)? All crops directly contacting flood waters and 30 ft. around cannot be harvested for human consumption, and growers can’t replant for 60 days unless soil test results can determine it’s free from pathogens—then growers must wait 30 days before replanting. What should I do if I am unclear about next steps with my organic crop post-flooding? Growers should contact their certifier and provide details about their specific situation. Certifier representatives will provide guidance that is specific to each situation.



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Supporting the Health Care Needs of Ag Workers By Raquel Lugo, Senior Director, Client Services & Mexico Operations Not all health plans are created equal. In fact, not all health plans are created with a unique audience in mind. For more than six decades, Western Growers Assurance Trust (WGAT) has been committed to ensuring a healthy future for our members in the agricultural community. WGAT offers solutions that address unique situations, such as health care coverage for field workers, seasonal employees and workers who only speak Spanish. And although we specialize in services that help farmworkers and the Spanish- speaking community, we ensure our plans and programs serve all demographics.

Cross-Border Health Care Close to a million Americans cross the border every year to receive medical treatments that are otherwise considered too expensive to receive in the U.S. In fact, many of these patients mainly come from the states of California, Arizona and Texas, according to statistical data from Patients Beyond Borders. Cross-border health care combines innovation and resourcefulness to reduce health care costs for employers while creating more options for their employees. Because WGAT recognizes the significance the border region has on the agriculture industry, we designed a comprehensive Mexico Cross-Border Program to provide flexible medical and dental care options for our members. The program includes a list of specialty and diagnostic services, such as anesthesiology, dermatology, internal medicine, orthopedics and much more. In addition, WGAT enhanced its Mexico plans in the last year to include nutritionist consultations for patients diagnosed with diabetes, as well as on-site consultations for cardiology and neurology. Recently, WGAT announced the opening of Healthy Families Medical Center, conveniently located close to the border in Mexicali, Mexico. The state-of-the-art facility allows our members to seek affordable and quality health care across the border, which includes general and family physicians; knowledgeable and skilled care providers; personalized care from bilingual staff; and pharmacy, lab and X-ray services. This new addition further expands our members’ access to high quality and affordable health care. Cedar Health and Wellness Centers To serve the primary health care needs of our members and their employees, WGAT created its Cedar Health and Wellness Centers as an effective solution for employers in agriculture to offer affordable and basic health care coverage and prevention care for their employees. Our Cedar Health and Wellness Centers and associated Cedar Network is included in every WGAT plan, and we continue to expand our list of network providers throughout California and

Arizona. Our Cedar plans are a popular option for employers in ag and enable both employers and employees to significantly save on health care costs.

Cross-border health care combines innovation and

As the marketplace looks for more innovation and cost-efficiency, WGAT recently announced exciting plan enhancements that will take effect this year to deliver more value to members and reduce costs. These enhancements include $0 copays for our best- in-class Cross-Border Mexico network of health care providers, $0 copays for Cedar Health and Wellness Center visits, and a $0 cost-share telemedicine program so members can access virtual primary care without any expense. Telehealth services can be extremely cost effective for both employers and employees, which is why we encourage our members to make use of virtual health care. Members in ag benefit from telehealth services in a number of ways, from receiving bilingual services to engaging with a doctor from any location within minutes. Telehealth has surged since the start of the pandemic, with an estimated 83.9 percent of patients using virtual health care visits for the first time, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). As more patients discover the convenience and benefits of telehealth, we can expect the popularity of virtual health care to continue to rise. If you don’t have a WGAT plan and would like to know more about how we can help you better manage your health care costs, contact Western Growers Insurance Services for more information. You can reach a sales team member at (800) 333-4WGA. resourcefulness to reduce health care costs for employers while creating more options for their employees.



Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

FIRA USA — If World Ag Expo and World Agri-Tech had a Baby By Walt Duflock, Vice President, Innovation Back to back weeks in Toulouse, France and Tulare, USA have convinced me that the format we are adopting for FIRA USA in Salinas in September 2023 is the best event format for the most important activity at a specialty crops automation event—starting and advancing conversations between growers and Agtech companies.

It may sound obvious, but a lot of events focus on other things for various reasons (sponsor dollars, organization agendas, and trying to attract a larger audience chief among them). When we launched FIRA USA last year in Fresno, we wanted to take the best aspects of two shows, focus the effort on one specific group of crops, and try and find an audience of agtech companies and growers. The goal was to bring the specialty crop AgTech automation community together for some great content, some great demos, and start a bunch of great conversations. We found a willing audience on both sides—startups enjoyed being part of a focused event where most of the attendees were looking for their type of solution, and growers were also interested in attending a show that focused on one type of solution. When you think of Tulare and the World Ag Expo, you think about an event for all ag products—dairy, livestock, Midwest crops, and specialty crops are all well represented and you better pack comfortable shoes if you want to see all of them because you will be putting some miles on to get across all the exhibitors in three days. Back from a one-year COVID hiatus in 2021, World Ag Expo re-appeared in 2022 and quickly got back to most of its former glory. The 2022 crowd was great, not quite at full capacity, but everyone was glad to have the event back and a chance to re-connect with people you didn’t get a chance to see much of in person for a couple of years. The old adage (and ‘80s song lyrics from Cinderella) is true—sometimes you really don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone (or was it Joni Mitchell?)—and Tulare proved it in 2022. World Ag Expo in 2023 in February had a bigger crowd and more companies in attendance. It turns out seeing ag equipment live is one of the best ways to create curiosity and questions from an audience. Tulare does this really well—that is the essence of what we hoped to capture for specialty crops for FIRA USA in Salinas in 2023. World Agri-Tech in San Francisco is an entirely different affair. You’re paying $500/night for a lot of nights in San Francisco at the Marriott Marquis—for Tulare, it’s only a special event like World Ag Expo that can convince people they should pay $500 for a

Courtyard in greater Tulare that’s not even that close to the event venue. Tulare is about the outdoors, walking for miles over a long day, learning about the latest equipment offerings, and getting some great BBQ and peach cobbler. World Agri-Tech has really high-end food and a lot of presentations that have you sitting theater style listening to some of the brightest agtech and investor minds talking about what’s here now but more about what could (should? must?) happen for later. Tulare is $20/ticket—World Agri-Tech is $2,500—and nobody should wonder why farmers don’t go to World Agri-Tech. At $2,500 a ticket and $500/night, the average farmer shakes that off faster than they shake off a trip to the mall. At World Ag Expo, exhibitors talk with and to farmers. At World Agri-Tech, presenters talk about farmers, and not always in a nice way. As we wrapped up World FIRA and Tulare, we begin planning for FIRA USA. FIRA USA is the perfect mix of Tulare and World Ag Expo with San Francisco and World AgriFood. It’s focused on specialty crop automation. It has world class content for three days on just that segment of agriculture, developed by growers and with grower feedback. It has great Agtech demos and exhibitors for three days—you can watch panels, see exhibitors, and watch demos all without leaving the grounds. This year we make it even better with the Robot Extravaganza, which provides the whole event in a three-hour format for everyone to attend on Day One. As I said in the title, FIRA USA is exactly what you would get if World Ag Expo and World AgriFood had a baby—it’s a pretty good looking infant and we’ll see if it can avoid those pesky “Terrible Twos” as it approaches its second year. This blog was originally published on the Medium site of WG’s VP of Innovation Walt Duflock.

For more information, go to www.fira-agtech.com/event/fira-usa



Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

BlazerWilkinsonGee Member since 2008 Sweet Success By Michelle Rivera

There’s something about a picture-perfect strawberry that has made the fruit consistently rank as one of the most popular fruits consumed by millions of Americans each year. According to grower-packer- shipper BlazerWilkinsonGee, there are five to seven petals per strawberry flower, an estimated 200 seeds on a strawberry’s surface, and five pounds of average yield per strawberry plant. But who’s counting?

Realizing the potential of this beloved fruit, John Wilkinson and Scott Blazer joined together to form BlazerWilkinson in 1996 to start selling strawberries. “Strawberries were really increasing in popularity at the time, and we knew we could sell a lot of them,” owner Wilkinson said. “Sooner or later, we realized we couldn’t buy enough of them, so we started farming them in 2003, and we’ve expanded little by little every year since.” Wilkinson notes that part of his company’s expansion can be attributed to its relationship with the Nunes family, when they licensed their Foxy label for strawberries in 2008. “This is a well-known brand in the vegetable industry, and this helped us as we expanded our farming operation. Since that time, the relationship has deepened considerably. They farm some fields for us in the Salinas area, we lease some land from them and they rotate vegetable crops through the farms between berry crops,” Wilkinson said. Fast forward nearly two decades later to 2021 when BlazerWilkinson teamed up with Daren Gee, a successful strawberry grower in the Santa Maria area. Together, they formed BlazerWilkinsonGee, a vertically integrated grower and shipper of both conventional and organic strawberries headquartered in Salinas, Calif. Its vertical operation enables the company to stay connected with its product every step of the way, ensuring strict standards of quality and flavor are maintained throughout the entire process. “There’s a lot that goes into it,” Wilkinson said. “We make sure we produce high quality fruit that gives us a lot to choose from for when it comes time to pack it.” BlazerWilkinsonGee farms an estimated 2,200 acres of strawberries between Oxnard, Santa Maria, and Salinas, Calif., and Plant City, Fla. The company also imports strawberries from Mexico during the mid-winter months to ensure it delivers quality strawberries 365 days a year. In addition to supplying premium fruit, the company has made tremendous strides in sustainability to ensure it remains a good steward of the land. BlazerWilkinsonGee COO Kiana Amaral,

who is also the daughter of Wilkson, noted that California farmers are under more scrutiny than any other state in the country. “It’s important we do everything possible to reduce our overall impact, from precision irrigation, to promoting biodiversity through crop rotation, to reducing food waste during the distribution process, to compostable cardboard packaging,” Amaral said. “But every bit as important as the sustainability of the land is the sustainability of our people and community. As a family run company, we take our role in supporting a healthy and vibrant community very seriously.” On top of those efforts, BlazerWilkinsonGee announced that it would be rolling out 100 percent recyclable clamshell packaging in 2020. “There hasn’t been a solid history of recycling clamshells. The recycling industry recycles a bunch of water bottles— and that’s a good business—but it’s not embracing clamshells yet. I see that as an area where we can all improve upon,” he said. “We felt the need to provide recyclable packaging regardless of whether or not people were going to recycle them. Most homes want to put in the effort to improve recycling, and now we just need to somehow encourage the recycling industry to step in and embrace it.” BlazerWilkinsonGee has been a member of Western Growers since 2008. “I’ve been in the agricultural industry all my life. My grandfather was an ag professor and a VP of an agricultural company, and my dad and uncle were both lettuce growers—so I’ve been in or around Western

Growers for many years. Western Growers is an association that most fully represents California and Arizona perishable agriculture, so it’s important for us to be a part of this distinguished group.”

Kiana Amaral



Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

Craig Alameda, Treasurer, Topflavor Farms, Inc. Director since 2022 | Member since 1993 | D-2 Yuma Growing a Family Legacy By Michelle Rivera

Craig Alameda discovered his love of agriculture at an early age while working alongside his grandfather, father and brothers at grower-packer-shipper L.S. Williams Company in Fremont, Calif. “Farming was bred into us,” he said, as he recalls his days of picking cucumbers, harvesting cauliflower and lettuce and driving tractors in the summertime during his teenage years.

“One of our jobs as kids was to try and make straight rows, doing it by eye and the seat of your pants,” he said. “So much has changed in my 45 years in ag. We went from hand-leveling to laser- leveling and GPS-leveling, and now we have GPS on our tractors to make rows and tractors that drive themselves.” Alameda graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in ag business. It wasn’t long after that the owner of L.S. Williams was looking to sell the company and retire. The timing seemed all too perfect. Alameda and his brothers came together to buy the farm and officially start their family business, which became The Alameda Company in 1984. “We were a grower-packer-shipper. I handled the payroll and accounting and also sold cauliflower and lettuce. One of my brothers was out in the field running operations and the other was doing the harvesting,” Alameda said. But after facing some economic hardships, mostly due to inclement weather and record storms, the brothers had to look for different options to keep the business afloat. Perfect timing set in again after Skyview Cooling reached out to Alameda and his brothers to assist and manage its operations in Mexico during the winter months. “They needed someone to help supervise and grow cauliflower. It was a total cultural awakening coming down to Yuma, but it gave us a great opportunity to learn a different area. We realized there were bigger areas to farm than just our neck of the woods, and it really opened our eyes for new opportunities available to us,” he said. After spending a few years in the region, grower- shipper Tanimura & Antle reached out to Alameda and his brothers with an opportunity to farm for them in Yuma. In 1991, Topflavor Farms, Inc. was born, which has since grown into a diverse family farming operation that produces a variety of crops, including romaine lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, kale and much more. At Topflavor Farms, Alameda sits as Treasurer, and his brothers Steve and Tony hold the positions of President and Vice President, respectively. “We aren’t that big on titles,” Alameda said. “We make all of our

decisions as a group—that’s the magical deal. When there’s two, you usually can’t decide on anything. With three, there’s a tiebreaker.” Alameda was elected to the Western Growers Board last fall and is currently serving his first year. “I’ve always been the guy behind the curtain, and when it came up that I had been nominated, I couldn’t believe anyone knew who I was. It was quite an honor,” Alameda said. “I am blown away by all the people on the board. It’s like a ‘Who’s Who in Ag.’ It’s been amazing to hear about everyone’s experiences and life stories.” One of his goals for serving on the board is to address costly food safety and liability insurance costs. “There are many issues facing growers today, from water and labor and everything in between. It’s the nature of our business. Costs have been driven up by recalls, fires and weather catastrophes all over the country. I think everyone can agree on this issue and band together to see how we can improve these rates under one big umbrella.”

Craig Alameda



Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

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