California Plant Health Association's (CPHA) first annual meeting Nov. 11-13 in Desert Springs in California's Coachella Valley is a watermark in the merger of the California Fertilizer Association and Western Crop Protection Association.

It has been a very smooth merger and the membership has been diligent and sincere in making it all work very smoothly.

It is a merger that made a lot of sense in an extremely fast paced business of major agricultural mega consolidations and mergers. It was a change that many felt was inevitable and necessary.

One of the key business issues today is handling change. That is why the book “Who Moved My Cheese” is so popular today. It addresses change because change is the nature of business today. We not only should anticipate change, but also monitor it and adapt quickly to change. And enjoy change again and again because it will continue.

Combine to meet challenge

All of CPHA's members can meet the challenge of change today because we have combined our resources and that strengthens the positions of the fertilizer and agrichemical industry with the legislature and in industry and public relations. The theme of CPHA's first annual meeting, “Better Together,” reflects that added strength.

California agriculture will be the benefactor of this merger as the CPHA strives toward its purpose of promoting the environmentally sound use and handling of plant health products and services for the production of safe and high quality food, fiber and horticultural products.

While the first annual meeting will be a celebration of a merger, it also will be a time to reflect on the dramatic changes that are under way in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001.

CPHA's member have long given security a high priority. That was heightened by the Oklahoma City bombing. Since then the industry has worked closely with the FBI and ATF in an ammonium nitrate stewardship program.

Theft has been an ongoing concern in the agrichemical industry and long before Sept. 11 theft prevention was given major priority.

Security has been heightened even more with additional involvement with law enforcement since that fateful Tuesday. The retailers and wholesalers are constantly on alert to make sure the people who buy and transport our members' products are who they say we are. We are working more closely than ever with California Highway Patrol in transport of hazardous material.

Most of us are still in shock by the events of Sept. 11, but business is slowly getting back to normal. Farmers still have to harvest their crops and get ready for the 2002 crops.

While business is slowly getting back to normal, it will never been the same as it was before Sept. 11. The fallout from that terrible day will continue for years to come.

Economic impact being felt

In the near term, state agencies are placing more emphasis on security. The economic impact of Sept. 11 is now being felt. California's governor has told state agencies to be prepared for a 15 percent budget cut because of anticipated state revenue shortfalls.

Not only will the budget impact the California Department of Food and Agriculture and Department of Pesticide Regulation, but all other agencies we deal with.

The world and society are rapidly changing, and the merger of two strong organizations into an even stronger California Plant Health Association will help a key element of Western agriculture better cop with the challenges of change ahead.

(This is the first of monthly California Plant Health Association columns in Western Farm Press, which has been designated by CPHA's board of directors as the official publication of the association.)