(UPDATED WITH VIDEO, March 27) LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. — Members of the Fresno-based California Grape & Tree Fruit League received some reassuring news during their 77th annual meeting March 25.

UPDATED: Grape & Tree Fruit League in good health “This league is as healthy financially as it has ever been,” said secretary-treasurer Louis Pandol, corporate secretary and chairman of the Board of Pandol Bros. Inc., Delano.

The state’s table grape industry moved more than 100 million boxes of grapes for the first time last year and at higher f.o.b. levels, said president Barry Bedwell.

About 240 people attended the gathering at the Montage Laguna Beach resort.

A workshop before the meeting featured five industry experts commenting on the topic “What Keeps You Awake at Night?”

Brian Leahy, director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, said that although agriculture usually comes to mind when talk turns to excessive pesticide use, consumers and non professionals “have really done a lot of damage.”

Still, pesticide education “has made remarkable changes for the better.”

Richard Schmidt, president and chief executive officer of the United Agribusiness League, told members that agriculture employers could be hard hit by the Affordable Care Act, which, he said, “is anything but affordable.”

He encouraged members to attend seminars and learn more about the legislation, which he said will have a “dramatic impact on the economy.”

Sylvia Torres-Guillen assured members that her goal as general counsel of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board is to “achieve peace and justice” through collaboration.

“We really need to understand each other,” she said.

Charlie Hoppin, outgoing chairman of California’s State Water Resources Control Board — and the first grower to serve on that board — said nitrate seeping into groundwater in parts of California’s Central Valley is one of the biggest issues on the water-quality front.

All parties must work together to ensure quality drinking water in the state, he said.

Panel moderator George Soares, founding member and managing partner of Kahn, Soares & Conway LLP, Sacramento, said agriculture is “trying to make a difference.”

“We are aggressively engaged” in establishing relationships with government entities and making the industry’s voice heard in Sacramento, he said.

Chairman Ryan Zaninovich, manager at Vincent B. Zaninovich & Sons Inc., Delano, said the league accomplished a lot over the past year, including:

  • Forming committees to help take up some of the slack following the demise of the California Tree Fruit Agreement;
  • Helping persuade the governor to veto a heat-standards bill that the industry believes would be unfair to agriculture;
  • Arranging educational farm tours for legislators; and
  • Contributing $40,000 to successfully target two state races in the November election.

Besides Zaninovich and Pandol, officers for the 2013-14 fiscal year are David Jackson of Family Tree Farms, Reedley, first vice chair; and Harold McClarty, owner of HMC Farms, Kingsburg, second vice chair.

New members of the board of directors are:

  • Bo Brett, Mountain View Fruit Sales, Reedley;
  • Mike Jackson, Kingsburg Orchards, Kingsburg;
  • Blair Richardson, Rivermaid Trading Co./WesPak Inc., Dinuba;
  • Matt Surber, M. Caratan Inc., Delano; and
  • Russ Tavlan, Moonlight Cos., Reedley.

The league honored Herbert Kaprielian, owner of Reedley-based CRJ Farming Co. LP, with a lifetime achievement award. The award only has been presented once before — to Sarkis Sarabian of Sarabian Farms, Sanger, Calif.