Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh Produce Association in Washington DC, believes negotiations related to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (known as DACA) and border enforcement give the industry an opportunity to bring the conversation around to aspects of immigration policy that affect the produce industry, such as the Agricultural Guestworker Act proposed in October 2017. Given the current political climate, few are able to confidently predict the outcome.
The more things change…the more they stay the same. Well, in some respects, at least when it comes to California and water: from long-term drought and record rain to dry conditions and devastating wildfires—all in the span of a year.
“The rains were wonderful; they filled the reservoirs, helped with surface water, and gave us great snowpack,” confirms Goforth. “But it takes more than one year of rain to replenish the aquifer beneath our feet.”
McInerney agrees, noting that despite last year’s El Niño-driven wet winter, big challenges remain, especially with how water moves through the chokepoint of the Delta. Environmental issues continue to restrict water flow from north to south at certain times of year, resulting in excess water flowing out under the Golden Gate Bridge.
“We came out of the drought, but the question now is how to go forward with a plan for groundwater management and to find an equitable way to do it from the point of view of the environment, cities, and growers,” McInerney explains. “It’s important to not let one wet winter stop the momentum and lead us to complacency.”
There have been discussions about a federal infrastructure bill being discussed in 2018, although no schedule has been set. “We will push hard to include water infrastructure in any bill,” promises Guenther.
NAFTA & the Farm Bill
In spite of tough talk from the Trump administration, many experts in the produce industry believe the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will remain in place, hopefully with some modernization in the areas of sanitary issues, access to markets and the like.
“We’ve pleaded with [the Trump administration] not to withdraw unilater-ally,” McInerney says, pointing out how NAFTA and other trade pacts such as the South Korean Free Trade Agreement have benefitted the industry, despite needing a few tweaks.