It is with great pride that I report that the role and responsibility of your Association remains just as important today, as it was 86 years ago: To serve as the primary public policy advocate for the fresh fruit growers and shippers of California.
Nearly seven and a half years ago, I sat in Barry Bedwell’s office, discussing my interest in joining the Association team. Through my own interactions with Barry, I had observed the strength of the industry’s collective, admired the longstanding history of the organization itself, and deeply respected the members who had invested their time, talents and treasures creating an entity that spoke as one voice for the California fresh fruit industry. I saw a place that I wanted the opportunity to be a part of, to build my career at and hopefully, have the opportunity to lead someday. Those seven and a half years have flown by, and I stand here today more grateful, determined, and invigorated to make a positive and lasting impact for our industry.
It probably goes without saying, but the previous three years were truly years of transition and transformation for the California Fresh Fruit Association. But as I reflect on time passed, I am proud to say that we have weathered the storm, rebuilt our crew, and set a path which we are determined to follow.
As we look back over the last few years, it is easy to identify or dwell on the negative. But when I think about what CFFA has accomplished since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I see far more successes than shortcomings. It is an element that I most admire about our membership and industry, the ability to see the bright side or acknowledge that another season is just around the corner. The ever-present feeling of hope, even if the realities of yesterday still weigh heavy on our hearts.
In the area of ag labor, 2021 brought immense success, both directly and indirectly through CFFA efforts. First, in the June of 2021, through the intense advocacy by CFFA member Fowler Packing, the United States Supreme Court ruled that “access” under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which allows union organizers to come onto the private property of farmers/landowners to promote the union, violates the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. To pick up the mantle on behalf of the industry is never easy, but time and again the Parnagian Family has been willing to do so and for that, we are forever grateful.
In addition to the Supreme Court Ruling, Governor Newsom too made a significant decision on ag labor in 2021. After months of advocacy and engagement, in September of 2021, Governor Newsom followed his predecessors’ foresight in vetoing the most recent iteration of “Card Check”. Through industry’s engagement, we were able to communicate a cogent argument as to why the proponents of the bill’s intentions were not consistent with the bill’s actual text. Make no mistake, this issue will remain ever-present for industry, but through speaking truth to power, we were able to win the day and thus hold the line for an additional legislative year.
While these successes might seem small to some, in the world that CFFA operates, they are huge successes. All of us know that California is not an easy state to operate in, but without it, we would not be the CALIFORNIA FRESH FRUIT ASSOCIATION. This is our state, the place our families call home and where, with some privilege, I’m confident I can say we all hope our next generation builds their own stories in. That is our task, our responsibility at the Association, to preserve and propagate your opportunities. We take this responsibility seriously and with immense appreciation.
Let me close with a few personal acknowledgements. First to our outgoing Chairman Kevin Herman. While your two years as Chairman probably did not go as planned, you are in good company because I think if you asked both Harold and Randy, they would say their years didn’t go as planned either. I’ve read before that leaders do not choose the time in which they are called, but they lead, nonetheless. Thank you, Kevin, for exemplifying leadership in troubled times. For your commitment to our industry, its history, and its vibrant future.
Next, to our staff: Courtney, Caroline, Adam, Allyson, Perla and Mary. If I have said it once, I have said it a million times. We are a team; we are this industry’s team. Thank you for repeatedly rising to the occasion, for buying into a vision and committing yourself to an industry that is worth fighting for. It is a privilege to work with each of you every day.
To my wife Molly, thank you for affording me the time and opportunity to serve such an amazing industry. You remain my staunchest supporter and I couldn’t do any of it without you by my side.
And finally, to our entire membership. None of this would be possible without your support and dedication to our Association. Your support is not taken lightly and something that we work to justify its value each and every day. Thank you! As I have closed my two previous “State of the Association’s”, I will leave you with this, for CFFA. “The work, the fight, the progress continues.”