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How The Wonderful Company’s Rob Yraceburu and other ag industry leaders support their communities through education ALL IN THE FAMILY



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WESTERN GROWER & SHIPPER Published Since 1929 Volume XCIV | Number 3

To enhance the competitiveness and profitability of Western Growers members


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

22 What the Farm Bill Means for Specialty Crop Growers 26 ALL IN THE FAMILY How The Wonderful Company and Other Ag Industry Leaders Support Their Communities Through Education 30 Salinas Biological Summit Preview: Learn About the Cutting Edge of Soil and Plant Health

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



Agronova’s Probelte: Providing the Tools for Soil Health to Promote Human Health


How Bayer Sets the Pace of Innovation




36 Updates from the WGCIT 40 WG News You Can Use 42 Contact Us 44 Connections 45 Inside Western Growers 46 Farm Dogs and Barn Cats of Western Growers

4 President’s Notes 6 Agriculture & the Law 10 Advocacy | California 12 Science 13 Pinnacle 14 Innovation 16 Director Profile 24 WG Member Welcome & Anniversaries

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 $25 per year. Foreign subscription is $50 per year. Single copies of issues, $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.

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An Open Letter to Governor Newsom By Dave Puglia, President and CEO, Western Growers Dear Governor Newsom: We noted with great interest your proposal to extend California’s Film and Television Tax Credit Program and to further make the tax credits refundable for the first time ever. Bravo! As other states implemented their own tax

Since 2015, the California film and television tax credit has awarded $2.5 billion in tax credits. Private sector investment in California has been enormous, with 29 television series productions relocating to California and in-state expenditures of nearly $20 billion by those companies. Much of that spending supported good jobs in the entertainment industry, with 164,000 cast and crew hires attributed to the state’s tax credits. In announcing your proposal, the executive director of the California Film Commission said that it “continues to deliver on our goal of retaining and growing in-state production,” and that the refundable tax credit “will give industry decision makers more options and the certainty they need to make long- term investments here in the Golden State. This will translate into more production-related jobs, spending and opportunity.” By now you may be wondering why the leader of an agricultural trade association is going on and

incentives to lure film and television production away from California, your predecessors wisely recognized that as much as we want to believe that California’s special qualities would overpower those incentives, the hard reality is that money talks and, well, you know the rest. Governor Schwarzenegger won legislative approval of the first iteration of the program in 2009, with a modestly capped $100 million annual allocation and a sunset in just five years. Like you, Gov. Schwarzenegger faced skeptics who believed a tax credit like this should not be accommodated when the state was coping with a yawning budget deficit. (The state’s budget gap at that time was $42 billion, proportionately much higher than the challenge today.) The results proved the skeptics wrong as film and television production returned to California, spurring an increase of the allocation to $330 million annually along with other revisions.


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Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

on about the state film and television production tax credit proposal and your proposal to improve and extend it. Simple: California is losing agricultural investment to other states and foreign nations due to high state input and regulatory costs. The laws of economics do not operate differently for the agriculture industry as they do for the film and television industry. In fact, the verbatim statements made above to justify your film and television tax credit proposal are true for our state’s agriculture industry. “Our industry is hurting in so many ways right now, far more than anything the film and television industry experienced in the years leading up to California’s tax credit program to help bring it back.” The logic being inescapable, we ask that you consider a refundable tax credit for agricultural producers that can “give industry decision makers more options and the certainty they need to make long-term investments here in the Golden State,” as doing so “will translate into more production-related jobs, spending and opportunity.” California enacted legislation in 2016 to gradually reduce the threshold for overtime in agriculture field jobs from what it had long been—60 hours a week— to 40 hours a week. Despite the intent of the legislation, the economic cap on overtime hours created by this law has, in practice, significantly reduced the earnings of farm employees and undermined the productivity and competitiveness of California’s farmers. This law and many other factors have combined to cause 23.5 percent fall in net farm income since 2014. With increasing frequency and urgency, my members tell me about the farms and facilities they are buying and building in other states and especially in Mexico and several South American

countries. To a person they say they held back for as long as they could, but the economics of operating in California finally forced their hand. No one in elected office wants to see this, but without concrete action it will only increase. Fortunately, we can look to two states for a suggestion. Oregon followed California in passing a new overtime law for agriculture workers, phasing in the mandate over several years. Oregon’s legislature recognized the economic harm that would follow and established a refundable tax credit to agricultural employers to recover all or part of the wage increases attributed to overtime pay. In addition, the state provided a one- time financial aid boost to help farmers implement the new law. Similarly, New York State’s new overtime law for agriculture workers includes an overtime tax credit that allows farmers to take 118 percent of the eligible overtime pay to help offset the new mandated costs. California agriculture is nearly five times larger than Oregon and New York combined. The Democratic legislatures and governors of those states chose to openly acknowledge and mitigate the obvious wage-earning and farm-revenue consequences of their new agriculture overtime laws. California can and should do the same. California agriculture is not the state’s largest economic sector. But it is certainly the most important industry for the millions of our fellow Californians who live and work in those immense regions where agriculture is the primary driver of economic and social health. Our industry is hurting in so many ways right now, far more than anything the film and television industry experienced in the years leading up to California’s tax credit program to help bring it back. Please give this your consideration, setting aside the predictable petty political shrieks that will come in favor of sound economic policy.

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 Bolthouse Farms, 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

Yours truly, Dave Puglia President and CEO Western Growers

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Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

Navigating the Pros and Cons of Employment Arbitration By Jason Resnick, Senior Vice President and General Counsel Employment arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution mechanism where employees agree to resolve their disputes with their employer outside of a court. The use of employment arbitration agreements has become increasingly common, and most attorneys (including this author) advise employer clients that it’s generally better to have them than not. However, despite the oft-promoted advantages, there are also some practical disadvantages of employment arbitration that must be considered. Arbitration of PAGA Claims The question of arbitrability of representative actions under California’s Private Attorneys General

and money. In single-plaintiff cases, arbitration is generally less expensive than a jury trial. Extended jury trials can be costly in terms of attorney time spent preparing for trial and participating in pre-trial matters before the court. Arbitrations are typically resolved much more quickly than similar cases navigating the court system. Shortening the time to get to a merits hearing versus a jury trial can save employers substantial legal fees. Employment arbitration agreements typically include class action waivers. Class action lawsuits can be extremely expensive for employers and can result in significant damages being awarded to plaintiffs. A class action waiver can effectively prevent this type of litigation from occurring. Instead, employees would need to pursue their claims individually, reducing the settlement value of the case. Arbitrations generally provide for more predictable outcomes. In a courtroom, a jury may be swayed by emotions, prejudices, or other factors that can influence the outcome of a case. On the other hand, arbitrators, many of whom are retired judges, are trained to make impartial decisions based solely on the facts of the case. This can lead to more consistent and predictable outcomes for both employers and employees. The lack of a potential

Act (PAGA) remains very much in flux. The California Supreme Court has granted review in Adolph v. Uber Technologies, Inc. , on the question as to whether an aggrieved employee who has been compelled to arbitrate claims under PAGA that are “premised on Labor Code violations actually sustained by” the aggrieved employee maintains standing to pursue “PAGA claims arising out of events involving other employees” in court or in any other forum the parties agree is suitable. The U.S. Supreme Court left the door open for the legislature or the California Supreme Court to settle this question of standing. The California Supreme Court is expected to render a decision on that issue by early August. With the caveat that the value of arbitration agreements in PAGA collective-action claims remains an open question, let’s explore the practical advantages and disadvantages of employment arbitration. Advantages of Employment Arbitration One significant benefit for arbitrating workplace claims is that it can save significant amounts of time


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Sakata sweet peppers are the real deal! From snacking peppers to bells and beyond, our breeding program ensures high yields, vibrant colors, and fast maturity across the board. Our new and exciting Delite Series of snacking peppers are excellent for fast and uniform maturity across a trio of colors. Ruby , Orange , and Lemon Delite all share high yields, great hot set ability, and a strong disease package. Arica is an adaptable bell pepper with great cover, high yield, and a concentrated set; suitable for both the fresh or processing markets. To learn more about Sakata’s extensive sweet pepper program, head to www.sakatavegetables.com to get connected with our team of experts.


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runaway jury also has the advantage of reducing settlement values. Disadvantages of Employment Arbitration Although arbitrations are generally cheaper than jury trials, arbitration costs have skyrocketed over the past few years. Unlike litigation, employers must bear almost the entire cost of arbitration, including the fees of the arbitrator, which can reach $60,000 or more. Moreover, several months before the arbitration hearing date, the employer will be invoiced by the dispute resolution service provider for a deposit in the amount of the entire anticipated cost of the arbitrator’s fee. While initially refundable, the deposit becomes nonrefundable as the date of the arbitration hearing quickly approaches. Under California law, if the employer fails to timely pay the initial filing fee or the arbitrator’s fee, the plaintiff can automatically compel the case back to court. Furthermore, there is typically no opportunity for employers to recoup these costs from the losing party. Therefore, unlike traditional litigation,

arbitration may impose significant additional fees and costs. Arbitrators are far less likely than courts to grant dispositive motions which could result in dismissing the entire case, or part of the case. While courts are compelled to clear cases lacking in merit from their dockets, arbitrators are not similarly incentivized. Rather, arbitrators are paid by the hour, and financial considerations may factor into an arbitrator’s decision to not consider or grant a dispositive motion. Additionally, unlike litigation in court, the scope of appellate review of an arbitration decision is limited. Under the Federal Arbitration Act, a court is permitted to vacate an arbitration award only when it “was procured by corruption, fraud, or undue means,” when “there was evident partiality or corruption in the arbitrator,” when the arbitrator engaged in certain specified misconduct, or when the “arbitrator exceeded their powers.” As a result, courts are reluctant to disturb an arbitrator’s award or provide a forum for the parties to relitigate facts. Lastly, arbitration agreements can be difficult to enforce. In California, enforceable arbitration agreements must

contain numerous employee-friendly provisions, ranging from mutuality of remedy, to the prohibition against limitations on relief, to the assurance of allowing sufficient discovery (fact-finding) to satisfy due process concerns. This means that employers must carefully draft their arbitration agreements to ensure that they are legally enforceable. To Arbitrate or Not to Arbitrate, That is the Question Whether employment arbitration agreements are a benefit to California employers is a close call, made more so by the rapidly evolving case law on the arbitrability of PAGA claims. While employment arbitration agreements can provide significant benefits, they can be difficult to enforce, and arbitration can have significant drawbacks. Ultimately, employers must weigh the benefits and drawbacks of employment arbitration agreements and consider whether compelling arbitration makes sense under their individual circumstances. Such considerations should be conducted in consultation with experienced employment law counsel.

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INSV Defense: Breakthrough against INSV with first resistant lettuce varieties

A solution to the Impatiens necrotic spot virus (INSV) is finally within reach for lettuce growers. After years of intensive research and breeding, the Dutch vegetable seed company Rijk Zwaan is launching two Romaine lettuce varieties for the U.S. market with a resistance to INSV. The varieties are the first in the company’s INSV Defense line.

Read more: rijkzwaan.com/insv-defense

For more information, contact Lettuce Crop Specialist Nathan Peretz at n.peretz@rijkzwaan.com

The Unbridled Disregard of California’s Employers By Matthew Allen, Vice President, State Government Affairs At the time of this writing, we are well into the first year of this new two-year legislative session. WG staff have met with the new legislators, as well as their staff, and have been very busy advocating for and against proposals that will impact our membership. “Working the bills” has its own set of rules and rhythms. There’s a general order for assigning specific bills to specific committees as well as Assembly and Senate Floor deadlines to meet. Many long hours are spent in hearings waiting in the queue to testify. This time has given me some pause to really consider what has been nagging at my core these past few years. It’s not so much a feeling as it’s a logical fact and not one that sits well with me.

California is not so much in a war with employers as they try to disregard them with destructive legislation and woefully ill-considered regulations. I differ on the use of “war” because history has shown times where war has been justified. “Disregard” signals more a lack of interest and due respect about the impact that new policies will have on our state’s employers, including farmers. This disregard likely comes naturally for some government officials because many have no business background. It’s also because labor has a tight grip on the Capitol. This tendency to try and sideline business concerns is evidenced in the sheer number of anti- employer bills that are introduced each year as well as ongoing attempts to eliminate good governance requirements like California’s Standardized Regulatory Impact Assessment (SRIA). The SRIA is a statutory requirement wherein proposed regulations that are anticipated to have a $50 million or more impact on business and individuals within a 12-month period have to undergo a much more in-depth economic analysis as part of the rulemaking process. This only makes sense because the economic consequences are real and may impact other operational and regulatory requirements with which companies already have to comply. The SRIA was meant to help govern a regulation and allow for a more surgical review of the language; it would determine if perhaps it should be narrowed or clarified so as to minimize impacts. Unfortunately, labor has been trying to remove this requirement from the Cal OSHA process. I just witnessed another glaring example on a Senate bill regarding air quality. It directs local air districts to only focus on the socio-economic impacts of their rules on families making less than $100,000. I guess the state doesn’t care about other working families who may earn more than this arbitrary number. What about businesses? This phrase in the bill is truly astounding: The bill would change the definition of “socioeconomic impacts” to, among other things, “remove from consideration the types of industry and business, other than small business, that is affected, to remove from consideration the impact of the proposed change on the economy of the region affected...”.

This phrase identifies two emerging concerns within California government. One, we don’t need to hear from employers or pay attention to their economic impacts and two, the myopic focus of climate change has led to disavowing a need to even consider the regional economy. Is it acceptable for people to suffer economically as part of a piecemeal, scattershot approach to try to make the air clean? Is it acceptable for people to suffer economically as part of a piecemeal, scattershot approach to try to make the air clean? We shouldn’t be surprised by this. In the early days of COVID-19 when a vast majority of Californians worked from home, climate activists rejoiced in the clean air caused by fewer cars and trucks on the state’s roadways. No matter that many lost their livelihoods as a result of the stay-at-home order. Not all is lost, however. WG advocates push back aggressively on these types of policies all the time and we’ve been largely successful. Consumers, employees and employers will not be successful if the true economic costs of a proposed regulation are specifically exempt from consideration. Economics matter. They always have and they always will.


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Certa-Set ® vs. Aluminum

See more green with Certa-Set ® Offering additional tensile strength and resistance to corrosion, the Certa-Set PVC irrigation system is engineered to get results you can see. Now you can grow smarter–reducing water waste and the labor required to move pipe while increasing water efficiency and yields. It’s time to get more out of your irrigation system with Certa-Set.

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© 2023 Westlake Pipe & Fittings. All rights reserved

A Plan of Action for Sustainability and Resiliency By Jeana Cadby, Environment and Climate Director For anyone who desires such an impossible task, irrigated agriculture will readily bestow the challenge of farming in an increasingly hotter, drier landscape, with the stipulation of decreasing water and crop inputs for the foreseeable future. Despite this impossibility, our growers continue to build healthy soils and pioneer innovative solutions, while providing safe, affordable and nutritious fresh food with great efficiency.

Nearly every climate modeling scenario that limits warming to 1.5° C (34.7° F) requires farmlands and soil on working lands to draw down carbon. Moreover, this undertaking must be accomplished amidst droughts, floods, emergent pest and disease pressure, and a changing social climate. One thing is clear: growers are answering to more stakeholders than ever before, and the stakes keep getting higher. However, our growers are invested in stewardship of our land and stewardship of our soil. We protect and enhance soil health knowing that healthy soils can absorb and retain more water, help restore aquifers and sustain biodiversity, while supporting crop yields and farm profitability. Farmers are adaptable and pragmatic. If they see something that works, they will adopt it. After all, it was our growers who took the charge on groundwater recharge practices and incorporated cover cropping and organic matter into growing systems. The rewards of these investments are evident as we continue to build healthy soils with great care for the land, water, air and people. This past March, I joined the Western Growers science team as Environment and Climate Director. In this newly created role, I am focused on supporting our members to take on the challenges of the current and future agricultural climate. My areas of focus include: • Engagement: Facilitating dialog with industry stakeholders on crop inputs, integrated pest management, water quality, resource conservation and climate response • Prospect: Identifying development and application of drivers for climate-smart field practices, and opportunities in key focus areas, particularly soil health • Advancement: Developing and sharing outcomes of environmental performance initiatives implemented by our member operations • Support: Promoting best practices for climate adaptation, resiliency and risk management Sustainability looks to the future to fulfill the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of the next generation. Resiliency, on the other hand, accounts for the extremes, to withstand adversity and recover from disaster 12 Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

effectively. My aim is to identify achievable and economically feasible resilient solutions, going beyond sustainability to build a more collaborative, science-backed and productive space for our growers and members. With the diversity of challenges yet to come, it is imperative that we move forward with purpose. This includes supporting investments in improved infrastructure to better prepare for drought and flooding risks before disaster strikes. Additionally, identifying and filling research gaps for necessary pest control and environmental compliance options to provide support for science- backed recommendations, and leveraging data to support our grower network. Lastly, seeking out opportunities that further support our growers to build and maintain healthy soils. Despite a seemingly impossible task, to take on the challenges of farming, our farmers will continue to be invested and resilient, for years to come.

Groundwater recharge at Terranova Ranch

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Prioritizing Employee Health and Wellness By Jennifer Netherby, Wellness Coordinator Healthcare costs employers billions each year through medical premiums and missed workdays. Yet, for the top causes of those escalating costs—high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity and obesity—the best medicine is often lifestyle change. Most employees, even if they want to make healthy changes, simply don’t have the tools or support to do so. Employees who would be open to changing their diet, for example, may not know what changes to make for their specific health condition and well- meaning doctors often aren’t able to offer specific guidance.

This is where the Pinnacle Health Management (PHM) Wellness Program can make a difference. PHM Wellness focuses on helping clients change their lifestyle habits before they run into major health problems or make proactive changes after they’ve begun to experience health problems to improve their health outcomes. PHM Wellness does this through evidence- based programs that focus on the four pillars of health: nutrition, fitness, quality sleep and stress management. By making positive changes in these areas, clients can make measurable changes to their overall health. Just as every employee has different needs, so do employers. With PHM Wellness, employers can choose from different wellness program offerings to meet the needs of their workforce and improve their bottom line. The variety of PHM Wellness programs include coaching as well as educational initiatives, all of which invite participants to take charge of their health and lead more balanced lives. Through individual coaching, employees can work on their health goals and focus on one or more of the four pillars of health or weight management. They get the support of a knowledgeable coach who will craft a personalized health plan and hold them accountable, while helping them navigate challenges. Our clients have lessened their need for medication, lost weight, started exercising, and improved their mindset and overall wellbeing through coaching. Quarterly wellness challenges dive deep into different aspects of wellness. These are broken down into simple weekly emails and mini-challenges that provide practical tools to help participants make small, but sustainable habit changes. Employees are invited to participate, challenging themselves to create new healthy habits, with a chance to win prizes at the end. Participants get to share their experience through end-of-challenge surveys, helping us to continually refine our offerings. Our newest initiative, a monthly podcast called To Your Health, features conversations with wellness leaders, who share the latest science in wellness and best practices for building healthy habits. This is not the same health information you learned in school. Each episode goes beyond much of the outdated

idea of “healthy” we’ve come to know and taps into what it means to live a balanced, happy and healthy life. Guests are established in the health and wellness field, from lifestyle and functional health physician Dr. Jay Benson to Dr. Eric Smith of the TLC show 1,000-Lb. Sisters. PHM Wellness focuses on helping clients change their lifestyle habits before they run into major health problems or to make proactive changes after We also share a variety of educational materials to support employees in creating healthy habits. Our monthly webinars include practical tools employees and their family members can apply to their life. Past webinars have focused on sugar and its effect on our health as well as tips to navigate the Daylight Saving Time change. Monthly Wellness and Safety Toolkits cover topics, such as tips for shopping at the grocery store to sun safety. The quarterly Fresh Air newsletter features seasonal tips on health and wellness, such as sticking with exercise during the holiday season. All of our programs are inclusive and meant to support employees making healthy changes they can stick with for the long-term. If you don’t have a WGAT plan, which includes a care management program and the added option of a Pinnacle Health Management Wellness Program, contact us to see how we can help you better manage your health care costs at (800) 333-4942. they’ve begun to experience health problems to improve their health outcomes.

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Three Keys to Success in the Biologicals Space By Walt Duflock, Vice President, Innovation There is a lot of discussion about biological solutions in agtech these days at trade shows and in ag media and with good reason. The use of chemical inputs to help manage pests and disease is under massive regulatory pressure from both Sacramento and D.C.—in many cases following the playbook western Europe is already using. Restrictions that could result in reduced use or outright bans are currently being considered in many places. Investors see the pressure and are looking for innovations that can help produce new solutions that can help to reduce the usage of chemicals, increase the efficiency of the chemicals that are used, and adjust the portfolio mix toward biological solutions. Startup founders can see the tailwinds being created and are starting to innovate new solutions in labs and universities to help speed things up.

When there are this many tailwinds working in favor of a single agtech segment, it is always good to start making sure we define the segment with some specificity for two reasons. First, it helps legitimate players innovating in the space define it narrowly to keep faux players in the space out. Second—and this is equally important—it helps investors know that the legitimate innovators are going to pitch for funds with a clarity about what the space is and what it is not. Both groups benefit from a very clear definition. This is why biologicals, having achieved the first target of being a hot segment with tailwinds, now must be clearly defined to help startups and investors who are trying to innovate and invest in the segment identify each other. If we get this right, we can help support the momentum of a hot space. If we get it wrong, we run the risk of creating the next CEA (see the carnage and fire sales in that space recently?)

or alt-protein (anybody heard anything good about Beyond or Impossible burgers lately? As I’ve said before, with enough cheese and bacon I can choke one down but they still lose on taste and price for me so I’m just not that into them) and blowing through an awful lot of venture capital money with not a lot to show for the effort. Here’s the key to defining the space: we can’t let startups and investors use “biological” as a descriptor for an agtech segment. It’s actually a descriptor for multiple spaces. Think about the problem we are trying to solve with biologicals—it includes everything from genetic innovations that help plants resist drought and disease to soil health solutions that measure and improve any number of metrics that can improve soil health to biofertilizers and biostimulants that encourage more growth and yield. That’s at least three different segments: genetics, soil


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Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

health and inputs (each of which naturally breaks down into its own set of segments.) It’s understandable why startups from any of the segments would want to label themselves as biological solutions when the tailwinds above are getting more obvious daily to investors, and even potential customers, as regulatory pressures mount to start replacing chemicals with… biologicals (loose definition.) Two things can be true at the same time. Western Growers and our membership will continue to advocate for science- based usage of chemical inputs while working hard to help support and scale innovators as the new solutions iterate and improve enough to continue successfully fundraising and getting products in a ready position for scale and international market entry. Attempts to go entirely without chemicals would likely lead to results like Sri Lanka (organic mandate results in lower yields, mass starvation due to lack of import capability, and becomes a significant factor in a government overthrow less than 18 months after

the executive order was signed) or the Netherlands (government decision to use tax dollars to shut down 3,000 livestock operators under the guise of EU greenhouse gas emissions reductions resulted in a just-formed political party taking the most seats in the recently contested election, sending a clear signal that it wasn’t just farmers that were unhappy with the strong-armed approach that could and should have been driven by innovation instead of regulation). So with all the tailwinds, everyone in the agtech ecosystem (that includes growers, investors and industry groups like Western Growers) has three jobs for biologicals. First, if a startup says they are in biologicals, ask which part of biological solutions—genetics, soil health or inputs? Second, once the sub-segment is identified, ask what specific problem, or budget line item, the startup’s solution helps improve from a grower economics perspective (always helps when they can tie it to a specific line item on the financial statements). If these sound a lot like two

of the first steps used in Lean Startup analysis, they should, and that’s the third job. Make sure that all biologicals startups are pushing their thinking through Lean Startup (aka Lean Canvas if doing Google search to identify the easy-to- use tool implementation of Lean Startup methodology) which will force them to think hard about the use case, problem statement and economic model they should pursue. If we can do that for all biological startups, we will help them avoid bad R&D paths and ideally improve their chances of fundraising and/or successful fundraising depending on where in their life cycle the startup is at when you meet them. Pay it forward, folks. Startups are hard, we can help avoid some unforced R&D errors and wasted capital with these three simple steps. Helping everyone understand which biological solutions are dessert toppings and which are floor waxes is good for everyone in the long-term.


When targeting soil borne disease and nematodes, TriClor and TELONE TM can be applied in a single pass. This reduces application costs, promotes early root development, and improves soil health. For more information about TriClor and TELONE TM or to schedule an application contact TriCal, Inc.

669-327-5076 www.TriCal.com

*TriClor and TEONE TM are federally Restricted Use Pesticides.

MAY | JUNE 2023


Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

Kyle Richardson, President, Garry Richardson Farms Director since 2022 | Member since 2016 | D-9 Kern County/Bakersfield Farming for Generations By Michelle Rivera Kyle Richardson comes from a family with a strong work ethic, innovative ideas and rich traditions. As a third-generation farmer, these values have enabled Richardson to thrive in a position of leadership and

influence among the agricultural community. At present, Richardson is President of Garry Richardson Farms, a leading grower of organic and conventional citrus in the southern part of California’s Central Valley. Founded by his father Garry, the farm began with cultivating late-season peaches on 160 acres of land in 1990. In 2010, the team decided to shift gears and expand its focus on growing conventional and organic citrus. Richardson was elected to the 2023-2024 Western Growers Board of Directors last fall, making it his first time serving on the board. To his benefit, Richardson is no stranger to Western Growers leadership. Richardson is part of an earlier graduating class of Future Volunteer Leaders, a two-year program that enables members to gain access to specialized networking and agricultural leadership development events within Western Growers, including standalone farm tours with Western Growers board members and training with the organization’s subject matter experts. “Because I was part of this program, I already had a solid understanding of how things worked on the board,” Richardson said. “I had the opportunity to sit in on board meetings with Western Growers leadership and other future volunteer leaders. It was great to meet new people and learn from them, getting to really see what they do and compare it to what I was already doing and used to. It was good to learn from and work alongside a diverse group of people,” he said. Richardson knew early on that the family farming business was something he wanted to pursue and spent his summers and spring breaks assisting on the family farm. “I was always given special projects during what would be spring break for most. And in the summers, it was always a grind and I was always working,” Richardson said. Richardson received his undergraduate degree in Agricultural Business from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. “My father gave me more responsibility after I graduated college, which was a great learning experience,” he said. “After I graduated, we started planting easy-peel mandarins, which has been a ton of work. We’ve since taken a few trips to Spain to expand our knowledge on how to successfully grow them.” And when things started to slow down a bit after

the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Richardson took the opportunity to go back to school, receiving his MBA from the University of Southern California in 2022. Richardson has also been a board member of the Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water Storage District for the last four years. He said Garry Richardson Farms has been fortunate in avoiding the array of challenges associated with recent heavy rainfall and floodwater. “Luckily, because we’re in the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley, we haven’t seen widespread flooding or anything of that nature. There have been road closures, but nothing has been washed out like what I’m seeing happen to other farmers in the Tulare Lake Bed. We’re very fortunate that we’ve been spared,” Richardson said. As one of the newest Western Growers board members, Richardson said he’s most looking forward to helping make decisions that positively impact his local community and other growers in Kern County. “What benefits my community will benefit the rest of Western Growers membership. My focus is to do what’s best for our members, whether it be working on water availability or working on improving labor challenges. There are a lot of really important issues, both big and small, for our members in the four states we cover,” Richardson said.


MAY | JUNE 2023

Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com


THIS IS WHAT UNIFORMITY LOOKS LIKE MADE POSSIBLE WITH THE R2000WF ROTATOR® SPRINKLER AND MINI DRAIN CHECK. Add TWIG® Wireless Controls for system automation. You can now remotely control and monitor your irrigation system from anywhere with the new TWIG mobile app.


Create watering schedules; edit by drag and drop; start, stop or pause a schedule; map irrigation blocks to verify field operation; and monitor pressure and flow with our new TWIG® Wireless Controls mobile app.




Celeste Alonzo Controller, Junior Enterprises

Celeste is Controller at Junior Enterprises in Indio, Calif., a grower of sweet corn, bell peppers, green beans and potatoes. In this position, she oversees all activities related to the finances of the farm. Celeste earned her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies from Arizona State University. She currently serves as a director for the Riverside County Farm Bureau and Coachella Valley Resource Conservation District. Celeste is also a member of the California Women for Agriculture and Riverside County Young Farmers and Ranchers, where she is a past president.

Appreciation pic for my son, Nacho. Nacho was a COVID puppy and came into my life when I really needed him the most. I am so grateful for him and the love and companionship he gives me.

Traveling feeds my soul! My goal is to step foot on each continent. Three down, four to go!

My family is everything to me! I do not know what I would do without them. I cherish every moment I spend with them!

Impromptu Disneyland work trip. My boss/dad surprised us to a day at Disney to relive the old days of when he used to take us as kids. I will never forget this day!

I love love love flowers! So much so, that I got a weekend

I love to go on weekend nature adventures with my Australian Shepard, Nacho. Here we are at Joshua Tree National Park.

job doing floral décor for weddings in the desert.

Celeste is one of nine individuals selected to be in Class VII of the Future Volunteer Leaders, a program that guides the next generation of leaders within Western Growers member companies interested in becoming more informed and effective advocates for the fresh produce industry.


MAY | JUNE 2023

Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com


GOWANCO.COM 800.883.1844 Envidor®, Onager Optek® and the donkey logo are registered trademarks of Gowan Company, L.L.C. Magister® is a registered trademark used under license by Gowan Company, L.L.C. Nexter® is a registered trademark of Nissan Chemical Corporation. Always read and follow label directions.

MEET YOUR FUTURE VOLUNTEER LEADERS Mitchell Yerxa Manager, River Vista Farms

Mitchell is the Manager of River Vista Farms in Colusa, Calif., a grower of almonds, pecans, prunes, tomatoes and walnuts. In this position, he helps run the day-to-day operations of the farm. Mitchell earned his Bachelor of Applied Science in Agronomy and Crop Science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He is an alumnus of the California Agricultural Leadership Program. Mitchell currently serves on the board of the California Tomato Growers Association and has served on the Colusa Young Farmers and Ranchers board.

FAMILY LIFE I not only work with my family, but participate in many activities with my family including duck hunting in the winter. Most of my love for things like hunting, fishing, woodworking and photography come from the years of being around my family and witnessing their passion for many varied activities.

WORK LIFE My normal work days include walking fields, looking for problems, and helping our employees be the most successful we can be. Most times as a manager you aren’t worried about the minute-to-minute tractor work but more of the big picture for that field of how can we make the most net profit on each acre of ground we are farming for that year. Every day is different, and that is why I love farming.

DAD LIFE Michael Leroy Yerxa was born 2/22/23! Being a dad is the best feeling in the world, and I can’t wait to throw him in a carrier and have him see the world one trail at a time. As we tell him all the time, Adventure awaits!

PET LIFE We have a 3-year-old

TRAVEL LIFE I love to travel! Traveling internationally reminds me just how lucky we are to be in the US and in CA ag. For the men and women who still plow their rice fields with oxen, I salute you. I’ve grown attached to my tractors!

ADVENTURE LIFE I fly both helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes. I love to fly both for business and for pleasure. There is no better feeling than seeing the world from a 2,000 foot view all while beating traffic.

springer spaniel that loves to be on the water. We paddle board all summer, and Ziggy likes nothing better than tagging along for the ride!

Mitchell is one of nine individuals selected to be in Class VII of the Future Volunteer Leaders, a program that guides the next generation of leaders within Western Growers member companies interested in becoming more informed and effective advocates for the fresh produce industry.


MAY | JUNE 2023

Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

I grew with

Sal Parra Jr. Class 46

Director of farming for Burford Ranch, a multi- generational family operation that grows nuts, vegetables and row crops on 10,000 acres.

“The Ag Leadership Program helped me become a more engaged leader, contributing to local boards and issues in agriculture. After commencing, I became very involved in our industry – diversifying and getting involved in groups I previously had not interacted with, such as Western Growers. “Ag Leadership is a catalyst and catapults you to a new level of understanding yourself and your impact. It’s an investment in you, your company and the organizations you care about. “Individuals who truly immerse themselves in the program become tremendous leaders. I challenge anyone to look for any other leadership development program or graduate degree that does what Ag Leadership does. You will not find it.”

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 Sal’s full testimonial and learn more about Ag Leadership opportunities, our alumni and fellows at agleaders.org .

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