THE ADVOCATES A Week in the Life of Western Growers’ DC Lobbyists
By Stephanie Metzinger “ Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” – The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution Lobbying is a vital part of American democracy and helps ensure that grievances that threaten the livelihood of individuals or an industry are heard and, ideally, resolved. This tool is especially important for agriculture, which continually faces a plethora of legislation and regulation that make it increasingly difficult for farmers to grow healthy, nutritious food. Western Growers (WG) understands that the policymaking processes that govern our nation are complex and can be overwhelming for individual citizens or business owners. “At its heart, Western Growers is an advocacy organization,” said Dave Puglia, WG executive vice president. “We’re in front of legislators and regulators in Sacramento, Phoenix and Washington, D.C., fighting for the interests of our members. Our advocates don’t represent anyone else, and their intense dedication to our members becomes very personal. I certainly know the elation, frustration and anger that come with every success and setback. No group of professional advocates is more dedicated to this industry than ours.” For more than 90 years, WG staff have acted as the liaisons between fresh produce farmers and elected and appointed representatives. They understand the legislative process inside and out and have made it a priority to educate policy makers about the importance of agriculture before they vote on bills that affect the fresh produce industry. With fully staffed government affairs
offices in Sacramento, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C., WG’s dedicated investment to advocacy is unique to the industry. Since opening the Washington, D.C. office in 2007, WG’s influence has grown substantially at the federal level. For example, the D.C. staff organizes an annual “fly-in” in the spring, where members of the WG board of directors and executive staff convene with federal lawmakers and administration officials face- to-face to address issues critical to the agriculture industry. Today, the D.C. office is comprised of three staff members: Dennis Nuxoll, vice president, federal government affairs; Jonathan Sarager, director, federal government affairs; and Tracey Chow, federal government affairs specialist. These advocacy experts act as the on-site warriors promoting policies that protect the industry and fighting against legislation that endanger growers and their operations. Here is a behind-the-scenes look into what a week in September 2019 looked like for the tremendous trio. MONDAY The Morning With negotiations surrounding the United States-Mexico- Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement heating up, Dennis meets with Tracey at the office to discuss the week’s pending meetings. This includes speaking about WG’s position, ironing out talking points, discussing the latest updates on the negotiations and determining which WG staff member will attend which meetings. Dennis and Jonathan meet with the D.C. steering committee for the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) to collaboratively work on a House ag labor bill. WG is among the 130 global organizations in the AWC that share the goal of achieving agricultural immigration reform that will protect current workers and pave the way for a future flow of labor; in D.C., the steering committee is comprised of representatives from about a dozen of those 130 groups. The Afternoon Tracey meets with the Food and Ag Dialogue’s North American Working Group to discuss USMCA updates and strategies. This includes determining what the goals are for the week, what needs to be accomplished in the coming days and exchanging pertinent information about each of their respective organization’s needs. Next, the group—which solely represents food and agricultural organizations—finalizes the key messages and talking points and collaborates on organizing meetings with target Congressional offices. Tracey reaches out to congressional staffers to set up meetings with legislators to discuss agricultural needs in the USMCA.
WG’s federal government affairs works closely withWG’s state government affairs offices to achieve legislation that benefits specialty crop farmers. Pictured is WG Federal Government Affairs Vice President Dennis Nuxoll and CA Government Affairs Director Gail Delihant at the 2016WG Board Meeting.
28 Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2019
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