Steve Patricio Honored for Significant Contributions to Agriculture

Western Growers will award Patricio the prestigious 2018 Award of Honor on October 30

News Release Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh

Western Growers will honor Steve Patricio, whose visionary leadership has advanced the agricultural industry by leaps and bounds, with the 2018 Award of Honor. The Award of Honor is Western Growers’ highest recognition of industry achievement and is given to individuals who have contributed extensively to the agricultural community.

“Steve has been a tireless advocate for agriculture, and his ability to turn some of the most tumultuous challenges that our industry has faced over the past few decades into opportunities is unmatched,” said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers. “He has already left a tremendous legacy as someone who shoulders the responsibility of igniting change that advances the industry as a whole.”

Steve Patricio to be Honored by Western Growers Association

Patricio, the Chief Financial Officer of Westside Produce, based in Los Banos, is being recognized for his immeasurable leadership and contribution to the agricultural industry, making significant advancements in food safety and the protection of public health. Steve led the creation of the first-ever mandatory food safety compliance program for the California cantaloupe industry, as well as helped raise millions of dollars to fund research geared toward preventing foodborne illness. He also played an integral role in the establishment of the California and Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreements, which today have become the model for produce safety and accountability.

“When you look at the success of California agriculture, Steve is a true representative of why the ag community is as successful as it is today,” said Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director of the Center for Produce Safety. “He truly embodies passion and proactivity, and his commitment to food safety to benefit both the consumer and industry is unlike any other.”

Patricio’s tenacity does not just stop at food safety. Patricio has spent countless hours throughout his 45-year tenure in the industry advocating for a sustainable supply of water for farmers to grow the food that feeds the state, nation, and world. He has taken every opportunity, as he did when he was asked to join former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the San Luis Reservoir, to call attention to the need for more surface water storage and stress the need for a comprehensive water solution. Furthermore, Patricio launched the industry’s first orientation program for agribusinesses that focused exclusively on water rights.

“Steve has one of the brightest minds and quickest wit in the industry,” said Bob Gray, past chairman of Western Growers and former president/CEO of California Ag Leadership Foundation. “He is a contributor of substance, and the expertise and competence he has brought regarding food safety and water have made major impacts for the industry.”

A Los Banos-native, Patricio is deeply involved in the community and industry. He has served as chairman for Western Growers, Center for Produce Safety, California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, and Monrovia Nursery Company. He has also held leadership positions at Western Growers Assurance Trust, Monsanto Vegetable Seeds Advisory Council and the Produce Marketing Association.

“I was speechless when I found out I was selected for this award,” Patricio said. “I never thought that, at the end of it all, I would be a farmer or involved in this honorable and wonderful world that I am so engaged in today. I often tell youth that your career chooses you, and because I followed the path life decided to take me on, I am proud to say that I am a farmer. I couldn’t imagine being in any other industry.”

Patricio’s accomplishments and passion for shaping the ag industry will be recognized at the Award of Honor Dinner Gala at the Western Growers Annual Meeting on October 30 in Palm Desert, CA.  There, Patricio will be honored by his peers, friends, and family. To attend the ceremony, visit http://www.wgannualmeeting.com/.

Produce Rule is Now Mandatory

Produce Rule Now In Effect

By Sonia Salas, Western Growers, Director of Science and Technology

It’s official: Since January 26, domestic and international produce farms designated as “large” (those with annual sales greater than $500,000) are expected to comply with most provisions of the Produce Safety Rule, a federal law created under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Smaller farms will be phased in over the next few years.

The Produce Safety Rule is mandatory throughout the United States and applies to both domestic and imported produce. Any produce farm found to be out of compliance may be subject to regulatory action. The State Departments of Agriculture play a key role in education, outreach and enforcement activities.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently announced that it will be launching a new Produce Safety Program, which will operate as part of its Inspection Services Division. This program has been created specifically to conduct on-farm inspections on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and will be used to verify compliance with the Produce Safety Rule.

Additionally, the program will distribute educational information designed to assist California produce farms in understanding the requirements and how to comply with the rule. More information about CDFA activities can be found in their Produce Safety Rule Fact Sheet. The Colorado and Arizona Departments of Agriculture are likewise taking the lead to enforce this rule and educate growers in their respective states.

The focus in 2018 is on education and on-farm readiness. While on-farm inspections are not likely until 2019, Western Growers encourages members to meet compliance deadlines and has developed resources to help members get ready, including an implementation guide and self-audit checklist, available on our FSMA Portal.

Below is a list of Western Growers’ resources and upcoming training to help growers with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule:

FSMA Portal: Click here to access the portal.

Produce Safety Rule Resources Portal (a full Implementation Guide with audit checklist will be available for download tomorrow): Click here to access the portal.

Webinar on February 26: Are you FSMA Compliant?: Click here to register.

Industry Workshops: Click here to view dates and register.

Farmers Leave California Due to Regs

Nassif Warns that More Farmers Will Leave Highly Regulated California

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

 

Earlier this summer, the California legislature voted down Assembly Bill 2757 which would have ended the 10-hour workday for farmworkers and eliminated their opportunity for overtime pay. Now, the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, is trying again with Assembly Bill 1066.

Tom Nassif, who has presided as president and CEO of Western Growers for the past 14 years, described this bill as a major cause for concern for farmers. “That’s very top-of-mind,” said Nassif. “Many of our members tell us the increase in minimum wage is onerous and the overtime bill is even worse; it will be more expensive and all it’s going to do is drive more producers out of production or into foreign countries,” he said.
Western Growers logoFrom his many years as a labor attorney working with multiple growers and shippers throughout the state, Nassif has a clear understanding of how this type of bill would adversely affect the farmworkers it’s being touted as helping. “When you think about the fact that you’re going to be taking ground out of production or moving production somewhere else, eventually you’re not going to have enough jobs. Additionally, people are starting to move into crops that don’t require so much labor, like tree nuts, which are mechanized,” noted Nassif.

Nassif explained that over the past few years, the overall cost of farming in California has risen more than 30 percent resulting from the climbing cost of water, various types of government regulation, and increased wages. “If AB 1066 were passed and put into effect, farmers will do what they need to do in order to survive, including limiting worker hours and hiring additional workers to make up the difference, or simply moving the entire farming operation to another state that’s more cost-effective.”

Nassif noted he has already heard of some farmers who are not waiting for costs to become more expensive and have already left California. “No question; it has been happening for a number of years,” said Nassif, adding the number of departures is growing all the time.

“You cannot put up with the high cost of production and micromanagement by the government, whether it’s the state government or the federal government or even regional governments, and have an effective economic model for farming,” Nassif stated. “Pretty soon that is just going to drive everybody away. They can produce much more cheaply in foreign countries.”

MY JOB DEPENDS ON AG Broadens Ag Community on Facebook

“My Job Depends on Ag” Facebook Campaign Goes Big

 By Patrick Cavanaugh, Associate Editor

It was a vision by Steve Malanca a tractor, salesman, and Erik Wilson, pest control operator and honeydew melon farmer, both working in around Dos Palos in Merced County.

Erik Wilson
Erik Wilson

“The fact that California agriculture is only 2 percent of the gross domestic product of the state was offensive to agriculture,” said Wilson. “because we all know it goes way beyond the gross receipts.”

Steve Malanca
Steve Malanca

Back in 2013 Malanca, an equipment salesman with Duetz Allis in Kerman, Calif., came up with a decal with the message: My Job Depends on Ag. He made a few for his friends who slapped them on their trucks.

“The phrase was inspired by a video done by Mike Wade, California Farm Water Coalition, in which he asked several people how they depended on ag for their job,” Malanca said.

Malanca was born and raised in Firebaugh, where his grandfather settled after emigrating from Italy. “My grandfather worked for Miller and Lux ranch, which was one of the largest ranches in the United States in the late 1800s,” he said.

“My father was born and raised on the West Side and was a cotton gin manager for Producers Cotton Oil Company. I have an older brother who is in the cantaloupe business longer than I have been in the farm equipment business. He is part owner of Westside Produce, and my younger brother is a shipping clerk there.

Producers Cotton Oil Company Plant Near Calwa, California
Producers Cotton Oil Company Plant Near Calwa, California

For the last 40 years, starting in Firebaugh, Malanca has been selling farm equipment. “That community has been tremendous to our family. Being involved in the equipment business, and talking to our customers about the trials and tribulations about water was an inspiration to put the ‘I Depend on Ag’ video together.

“There was a local Firebaugh farmer who made a brown ‘V’ decal that was a spinoff of the green ‘V’ of former Fresno State Bulldog coach Pat Hill, signifying the green valley. The brown V of course signified no water,” said Melena. “I expanded the idea and generated the ‘I Depend on Ag Decal’ about a month ago.

“Then Erik immediately suggested that we put it on Facebook, and the two ideas were married–and here we are,” said Malanca. As of the afternoon of June 6, the number of connections were close to 21,000 members!

“We did not want to have a Facebook with statistics on the importance of agriculture in California,” said Wilson. “I have a friend named Brian Ervin who is on Facebook, and he posted an item unrelated to the ‘I Depend on Ag’ concept. He wanted to know about other people’s California…Was it raining?…Was there hail on the ground? There was also an image of a guy loading a hay truck.”

“Instead of pushing out information, I got the idea of just letting everyone tell their own story,” Wilson said. “If people have a job that depends on ag, then we should let them tell their own story. Let people get involved. They own the page, and the stories have been wonderful. In fact, Steve and I have gotten choked up on some. People are saying are some things you’ve never heard of, and it’s really kind of historical,” he said.

“There are a lot of old methods of farming that have been forgotten that are now being introduced on the page,” said Wilson.

“Also, I have encouraged any group or person who disagrees with our philosophy and farming methods to open up the conversation, and not yell or get profane. This is what everyone America has been crying for from our politicians. So, we are going around them. This is how civilized adults get things done.”

“There have been comments from the organic crowd regarding images of sprayers working in fields. Now if they want organic food to eat, we will be happy to give it to them at a higher cost; organic production costs us more in time, money and trips across the field because the materials that we are permitted to use are not as affective,” said Wilson.

“We had a conversation with Western Growers on June 4 in which they asked if we were having to delete a lot of entries from people bashing the web page,” said Malanca. “And Erik, who moderates the page, said only three posts had to be deleted.”

“I may have deleted something prematurely because I thought a comment might go south too fast, but I just do not want the nastiness or personal attacks to take over, because it often happens if you do not moderate–even if it’s a friend–if they throw F-bombs, their entries will be deleted.”

“We are hearing from so many people who understand that ag is part of their job. We had a guy who works in the tortilla chip factory in Los Angeles who depends on ag for his job because all the corn that goes into the chips is grown in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Wilson.

“Flower shops are connecting in because flowers are agriculture. A lavender grower also posted a comment.”

Trucking companies are chiming as well. “If we can’t grow and sell it, then these boys can’t haul it,” noted Wilson. “And if we can get the trucking industry behind us since they do haul a lot of ag products, suddenly we are uniting an even larger segment of people who depend on agriculture,” said Malanca.

“I’d like to see these truckers and the guys on the docks get as passionate as we are, and maybe decide not to haul freight to areas that are complaining about farmers. They need to say, ‘if you want what we have, then turn the water on for the farmers.'”

“This is giving farmers a voice,” said Malanca. “And it’s something that has been missing.”

“Our wives have said that we are preaching to the choir, and I say that we need to rally and embolden every single person in the industry. I want to champion them as their story has not been told in the media–other than the agricultural media,” said Wilson.

“Many fragments have beentrying to get something done, but now we are seeing farmers really coming together on ‘I Depend on Ag.’ This is what we have been trying to do since the beginning of time,” said Malanca.

While the scope of the facebook page focuses on California, plans are germinating to roll out a national campaign. “After all, there are millions across the country who depend on agriculture,” said Wilson.

Western Growers applauds US $7.5B water support proposal

Source: www.freshfruitportal.com

Western Growers has praised a deal struck by California lawmakers that would see a US $7.5 billion package to bolster the state’s water supply and infrastructure.

California residents will now vote on the matter in November.

In a statement, Western Growers president and CEO Tom Nassif said he was delighted with the passage of legislation by the California Assembly and Senate, which includes US$2.7 billion for water storage.

“We are especially pleased that the storage portion of this legislation is a continuous appropriation preventing the legislature from withholding funding. Passage of this legislation is an essential first step in adding capacity to our state’s existing storage infrastructure,” Nassif said.

“This legislation replaces the existing bond slated for this November’s statewide ballot. Our Association will work diligently with Governor Jerry Brown to garner support for the initiative.”

California is currently facing one of the worst droughts in decades, and many in the industry have raised serious concerns over the unsustainable rate at which the water supplies are being depleted.

Nassif also commended members of both parties who came together to support compromise legislation he described as ‘critical’ not only for growers but for all of the state’s residents and water users.

“Western Growers particularly appreciates Governor Brown’s leadership on this issue. We look forward to his support of this measure as we work together to gain voter approval for the initiative this November,” he said.

California Citrus Mutual president Joel Nelsen added his praise to the legislation that he said met the needs of all the state’s regions.

“I believe we have turned a corner in our State in which we quit destroying the land and the people that provide the world food and fiber,” he said in a press release.

“I applaud the hard work and dedication of Assembly Members Connie Conway and Henry Perea and Senator Andy Vidak in leading the legislature in an effort to strengthen a bond proposal that we feel was previously incomplete.

“To the Governor’s credit he and his team listened to stakeholders and came a long way from the $2 Billion for storage that was included in his original proposal to a more comprehensive package that addresses our Valley and the state’s needs for a real solution.”

He added the state now had more money for storage, a path towards cross valley connectors, and funding for ground water cleanup in disadvantaged communities.

“The previous proposals contained less money, no pathway for the connector, and in reality made too few happy,” Nelsen said.

“This is a positive step forward and I believe the Speaker and the Governor when they say we will work together to achieve all our goals.”