Jack Mariani, a partner in the Mariana Nut Co. in Winters, addressed consumerism and how the marketplace impacts agricultural production. He said that almonds and walnuts are selling at record levels, especially in China, India and Turkey, because of their proven health benefits, but he noted that California farmers are continuing to be hamstrung over regulatory constraints at home.

George Soares, senior partner in the Sacramento law firm of Kahn, Soares and Conway, outlined traditional agricultural alliances and the new political paradigms and strategies being developed for the future. He pointed out the political uncertainties leading up to the November mid-term elections and drew diagrams about political hotbeds of liberalism in California that remain challenging for the state’s crop producers.

The keynote business luncheon speaker was Dr. Henry Miller, co-author of The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution. Miller is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, a prestigious think tank on the Stanford campus. Miller talked about the many roadblocks to progress thrown up by environmental groups that are against the advancement of foods derived from bio-plant technology. He pointed out many examples of protests surrounding the topic that, when put into scientific perspective amid the growing needs of a hungry planet, render green opposition wrongheaded and ludicrous.

In keeping with annual tradition, WPHA presented awards to two members who demonstrated outstanding service to the industry during the past year. The 2010 Integrity Award presented by Yara North America, Inc., went to Kent Johnson, of Ag Production Co. in Turlock, and the group's Lifetime Achievement Award was bestowed upon Dean Storkan, of Trical, Inc., of Hollister.

WPHA will be holding its annual meeting in 2011, at the Fairmont Scottsdale Hotel, in Scottsdale, Ariz.