The Western Growers 92nd Annual Meeting in Las Vegas concluded on Wednesday. More than 550 attendees enjoyed networking socials, captivating educations breakout sessions and thought-provoking keynote speeches. Highlights from the meeting include:

BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING

  • 2017 WG Chairman Sammy Duda (Duda Farm Fresh Foods) passed the gavel to Craig Reade (Bonipak Produce) to become the 2018 WG Chairman of the Board of Directors.
  • WG Board of Directors discussed the status and potential impact of Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s “The AG Act,” as well as the state of healthcare, tax reform and trade.

CHAIRMAN’S LUNCHEON & KEYNOTE

  • Sammy Duda’s (Duda Farm Fresh Foods) speech as WG’s outgoing chairman, which weaved in themes of collaboration and innovation, left the audience with a sense of community and hope. “California by far is the most regulated state, but by far, the most profitable,” said Duda. “California and Arizona are talented in the crop space. We can’t forget the impact we’ve had in feeding the world.”
  • Kristen Soltis Anderson engaged the audience in a keynote that focused on “busting four myths” about millennials, a generation that comprises 75 million individuals in the United States. “We are not what you think we are,” said Soltis. “We are not trying to blow everything up and change all the old processes. We are actually a risk-adverse generation and doing things the old way is too risky for us.”

AWARD OF HONOR DINNER

  • Sammy Duda and A.G. Kawamura (Orange County Produce) introduced David Gill (Rio Farms, Gill’s Onions) as the 2017 WG Award of Honor. “My success is wrapped around good partnerships. Good employees, good partners and a lot of trust,” said Gill during his Award of Honor speech. Gill continued to inspire the audience with a call to action. “The challenges never stop coming to our industry. We need strong voices for our industry. Both young and old. They are so important to our future. If you want to make a difference, you need to get involved. Don’t sit back. I challenge everyone to volunteer.” In addition to receiving the Award of Honor, Gill was presented with proclamations from Congressman Jeff Denham and State Senator Anthony Cannella.
  • Frank Maconachy (Ramsay Highlander) touched on the evolving mission of the WG Foundation, which was established in 1996 to provide school-aged children with the opportunity to learn about farming, nutrition and health eating. With the advent of the Careers in Ag program, the Foundation is now helping lead the effort to build a highly-skilled workforce for the Arizona and California fresh produce industry.

PAC LUNCH

  • Western Growers Political Action Committee Chairman Ron Ratto (Ratto Bros) noted that the challenges facing the agricultural industry are as critical as ever, and urged the audience to redouble its efforts to unite behind a common political voice.
  • P.J. O’Rourke, the nation’s premier political satirist and the “funniest writer in America,” according to both TIME and The Wall Street Journal, entertained the audience with a humorous speech on all that ails the Washington apparatus.

BREAKOUT SESSIONS

  • Healthcare: A panel of state and federal healthcare experts discussed a variety of issues ranging from the state of play for the Affordable Care Act to the prospects of single payer healthcare.
  • Immigration: Political insiders from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Cato Institute and AmericanHort touched on the prospects of immigration reform, the pros and cons of Chairman Goodlatte’s “The AG Act” bill and the strategy for moving an agricultural solution forward.
  • Cannabis: With the legal non-medical use of cannabis in California set to begin in 2018, the state’s chief cannabis regulator – along with producers and advocates – examined the emerging state regulatory and marketplace structures for cannabis.
  • AgTech: Six startup companies with technology solutions for the fresh produce industry competed for real-time investments from S2G Ventures, a food and agriculture venture fund. Two companies – AgVoice and Hazel Technologies – walked away with substantial capital funding.