The Western Plant Health Association has elected new board members and officers for 2011. The organization also presented special awards to two members during its annual meeting held Oct. 3-5 on the Big Island of Hawaii.

WPHA officers elected Barbara LeVake, of Trical, Inc., as chairperson; Ron Naven of Yara North America became vice chairman; and Scott Hushbeck of Wilbur-Ellis Co. was selected secretary/treasurer. John Smith of Bayer CropScience and Larry O'dell of H.J. Baker & Bro. were selected as at-large executive committee members. Michael Donnelly of Dow AgroSciences, outgoing WPHA chairman, will serve as Chair Ex. Officio.

The following individuals were newly elected to three-year terms on the WPHA board of directors: Mike Kennedy, of Green Valley Farm Supply; Tony Weatherred, Stanislaus Farm Supply; and Gary Snyder of PotashCorp. Departing directors were Kent Johnson, of Ag Production Co., and Steve Gillette of PotashCorp.

Upon taking the helm, LeVake outlined some of the key issues the industry will be confronting next year, such as state and regional water board initiatives for surface and groundwater regulations impacting pesticides and nutrients.

“We will be watching for the return of environmental justice-based regulations that will be aimed at agriculture. And depending on what happens with Proposition 23 in California, we will be monitoring the California Air Resources Board’s efforts for climate change.

She added that WPHA will be very much involved in DPR’s new air monitoring program and the next phase of its VOC regulations.

WPHA featured several speakers from California for its membership during the group’s annual business session: Dr. Lori Berger, executive director of the California Specialty Crops Council, addressed maximum residue levels (MRLs) and their impact on agricultural production and trade. She said California businesses that have to deal with MRLs in foreign countries are finding it extremely difficult to keep abreast of constantly changing standards and regulations when it comes to shipping produce into these foreign markets – with each foreign country having a different set of MRL standards that are enforced.

Consumerism, biotech crops

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.