Fruit and vegetable farmers join to increase political clout |

Fruit and vegetable farmers join to increase political clout

Fruit and vegetable farmers join to increase political clout

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — The Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association has increased its political clout by joining forces with Western Growers, an influential lobbying group.

Western Growers has represented family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona and California for decades. Its members grow 50 percent of the nation’s fruit and vegetables, 30 percent of its organic fresh produce and 99 percent of its tree-grown nuts, said Wendy Fink-Weber, Western Growers’ senior director of communications.

Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers was founded in 2014 as the only state trade association focused on issues specific to fruit and vegetable farmers, said Bruce Talbott, an association board member and owner of Talbott Farms in Palisade. “We want to have a wider variety of people speaking for the industry, and we want the industry to be much better informed as to what is going on,” Talbott said.

In addition to Talbott, Olathe sweet corn grower Reid Fishering represents the West Slope on the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association board of directors.

The agreement gives Colorado members access to Western Growers’ lobbying team, which advocates in Congress and at federal agencies on issues important to both groups, said Dennis Nuxoll, Western Growers’ vice president for federal government affairs.

One measure in Congress opposed by both groups would require all U.S. employers to validate workers’ citizenship by using E-Verify, a federal database.

Farmers often pay above minimum wage, but they still have a hard time finding workers. Most people don’t want a job that lasts only six weeks, and even fewer want to travel across the country each year following the harvest seasons, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported.

If farmers are required to use E-Verify for agricultural operations, “most of our operations will be in dire need, if not shut down,” Nuxoll said. “We think that is a horrible idea, and we will be working to oppose that.”

Comprehensive immigration reform to create a guest worker program that works much better than the current system is what is needed, he said.

Both associations also agreed to promote each other through joint marketing and communications and will look for more ways to collaborate during the next two years, Fink-Weber said.

Information from: The Daily Sentinel,

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