Western Growers will open a Washington, D.C. office April 30, with WGA Executive Vice President Matt McInerney temporarily heading the new office until full-time federal government affairs staff is hired.

“Opening and staffing a Washington office has been a long-term goal for Western Growers, our board of directors, and members,” said Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer.

“Western Growers believes it can best serve its members by having a full-time Washington presence to lobby on federal issues such as the 2007 farm bill, immigration reform, specialty crop competitiveness, and food safety.”

“These are just a few of the federal issues that are extremely important to our membership and that require our full-time attention,” said Steve Patricio, WGA's chairman of the board.

He said the board of directors believes strongly that opening a Washington office now is very timely because of the extremely critical federal legislative and regulatory matters pressing the fresh produce industry.

“The new full-time federal government affairs staff will complement and enhance the current WGA efforts of our long-time federal lobbying consultants, Bob Schramm with Schramm, Williams & Associates, and Julian Heron with Tuttle, Taylor and Heron,” said Nassif.

Western Growers is an agriculture trade association whose members grow, pack, and ship 90 percent of the fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables produced in California and 75 percent of those commodities in Arizona. This totals about half of the nation's fresh produce.