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CGTFL addresses issues at 77th annual meeting

LAGUNA BEACH, CA — The California Grape & Tree Fruit League held its 77th annual meeting March 25 in Laguna Beach, CA, which featured an industry workshop on what keeps farmers awake at night, the election of a chairman and board of directors, and the recognition of three League members.

At the industry workshop, George Soares of Kahn, Soares & Conway LLP, BedwellCGTFL President Barry Bedwell and United Fresh President Tom Stenzel communicated to league members the urgency of supporting current immigration reform efforts. moderated a discussion that included Brian Leahy, director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation; Sylvia Torres-Guillén, general counsel of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board; Charlie Hoppin, chairman of the State Water Resources Control Board; and Richard Schmidt, president and chief executive officer of the United Agribusiness League.

The top issues facing growers and shippers include a mandatory E-Verify program without addressing a workable agricultural worker program, water storage issues in California and international trade.

During the membership meeting, Ryan Zaninovich, chairman of the board, and league President Barry Bedwell spoke to the major issues plaguing growers, shippers and marketers of fresh produce.

"Agriculture wants to be at the table and be heard," Mr. Zaninovich said, adding that CGTFL has been more involved in targeting legislative races involving legislators that refuse to communicate with agriculture regarding ag-related issues. Those efforts helped to oust each legislator targeted.

The league has hosted legislators from urban areas to tour agricultural lands and businesses to communicate the challenges faced by fresh produce businesses that are not faced by urban businesses, Mr. Zaninovich added. CGTFL has also toured the home urban areas of those legislators willing to travel to the rural areas.

"Every year is a new ball game," Mr. Bedwell said. "We need to communicate to legislators and manage change. Everyday we have to prove our value, they need to do the same."

The immigration issue weighs heavy on the minds of growers and shippers of fresh produce. A shortage of labor could likely mean a shortage of fruits and vegetables, Mr. Bedwell added.

"Now is the time to make the deal," Mr. Bedwell said, referring to the latest immigration reform efforts.

Those sentiments were echoed by United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel, who was in the area for his organization's tour in California and stopped by the meeting.

Mr. Stenzel stated that it is important to support current immigration reform, but also to work on how to deal with the next influx of immigrants so the U.S. does not end up in the same situation in 25 years.

Mr. Bedwell also noted the good news that grape f.o.b. prices are up and grape volumes reached record levels. The tree fruit market conditions have improved, and gross farm incomes have reached record levels, though not net incomes.

Herbert Kaprielian, owner of Reedley-based CRJ Farming Co., was honored with the league's Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes an individual who is service-oriented, has provided long-term, consistent service to the California Grape & Tree Fruit League by serving on the board of directors or various committees for an extended period of time throughout their career, and through their time and effort has influenced CGTFL in a positive way. The first Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, named in 2008, was long-time grower member and past Board chairman, Sarkis Sarabian of Sarabian Farms. Doug Hemly of Courtland-based Greene & Hemly Inc. presented the award to Mr. Kaprielian.

Ian Burnett of IBS Supplies, Inc. in Fresno was also honored by fellow associate members with the 2013 Supplier of the Year Award. This award was created in 1991 to recognize individuals who are respected by customers as well as competitors, who are committed to the industry and who have integrity in personal business.

Mr. Burnett has been involved in the agricultural packaging industry since 1975, working for Maxco Supply Inc., Growers Packaging, TKV Container and then his own business, IBS Supplies Inc. He has served as an active member of the League, serving on numerous committees, including the Suppliers Committee.

Louis Pandol was also recognized by Mr. Bedwell for his 25 years of service on the CGTFL board. The annual meeting was Mr. Pandol's 99th consecutive meeting. He will likely make his 100th consecutive meeting at the April 10, 2013 strategic meeting.

The board of directors is made up of 50 men and women from operations throughout California. Ryan Zaninovich of V.B. Zaninovich & Sons Inc., was re-elected chairman of the board of directors for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The organization's officers are David Jackson of Family Tree Farms, first vice chair; Harold McClarty of HMC Farms, second vice chair; and Mr. Pandol of Pandol Bros., secretary/treasurer.

Five new members joined the Board of directors: Bo Brett of Mountain View Fruit Sales Inc.; Mike Jackson of Kingsburg Orchards; Blair Richardson of Rivermaid Trading Co./WesPak Inc.; Matt Surber of M. Caratan Inc.; and Russ Tavlan of Moonlight Cos.