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WGA board meets in Washington, discusses immigration reform

The Western Growers Association board of directors, who descended upon Washington, DC, for the association's board meeting the third week of May, left town believing there still remains a window of opportunity for action on immigration reform this year.

Led by WGA Chairman Bruce Taylor and Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer of WGA, members of the board came to Washington with messages for each party.NassifPetersonTaylorTom Nassif of Western Growers Association and Bruce Taylor of Taylor Farms and chairman of WGA, flank Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN).

For Republicans, board members stressed the need to take action on immigration reform issues as soon as possible to produce a bill that can be conferenced with the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill, which passed nearly a year ago.

The message to Democrats in Congress and the administration was, "Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good." Compromise is needed on both sides to move the issue forward, especially as the window for action continues to diminish.  

In return, board members heard from key administration officials and members of Congress that a window of opportunity exists between now and Aug. 1 -- the date when the House is expected to go into its August recess.

On water issues, board members heard from all the important players. Following their Tuesday meetings, board members had the opportunity to meet with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a key figure in the ongoing water battle, as well as a multitude of House members who addressed both water and immigration issues.

Board members met with several California delegation members, including House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Congress members Jim Costa (D-CA), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Jeff Denham (R-DC), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA) and John Garamendi (D-CA). Members also met with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ).

Taylor, Nassif and Steve Patricio of Westside Produce in Firebaugh, CA, gave interviews to Pat Haggerty of This Week in Agriculture on immigration reform, water issues and food-safety issues, respectively.

A number of administration officials also made themselves available to meet with board members. Celia Munoz, assistant to the president and director of the Domestic Policy Council, spoke to board members about immigration. Letty Belin, senior counselor to the deputy secretary at the Interior Department addressed water issues, and Allison Weideman, agriculture counselor from the Environmental Protection Agency, spoke to board members about "Waters of the U.S.," perchlorate and pesticide issues. Roberta Wagner, deputy director of regulatory affairs at FDA's Center of Food Safety, addressed food safety issues.