( File photo )

Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers since 2002, has been named the recipient of the organization’s 2019 Award of Honor.

The award recognizes Nassif’s innovative approach to addressing issues and influence on the produce industry, according to a news release.

The release lists some of Nassif’s achievements since joining Western Growers:

  • Helped pass the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act as part of an agriculture appropriations bill, the first time specialty crops received recognition in federal policy;
  • Aided in the advancement of agricultural technology, with the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology and the AgSharks competition; and
  • Worked to protect the long-term viability of farms in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, resulting in laws and programs.

He’s used his background as a lawyer specializing in agricultural labor and negotiations to help craft an immigration bill in 2013. It passed the Senate but wasn’t taken up by the House.

“He has raised the bar for performance and accountability for all of us in our industry,” Vic Smith, president and CEO of J.V Smith Cos., said in the release. “The successes we have had over the last 18 years are directly attributable to his and his team’s efforts. We have been very fortunate to have him as our leader.”

Gary Pasquinelli, co-owner and CEO of Pasquinelli Produce Co., met Nassif in 1971, amid labor disputes in the Yuma, Ariz., growing region.

“When we hired Tom, we knew we had a good man,” Pasquinelli said in the release. “He possesses a rare skill set and has brought a remarkable degree of professionalism to the job. His commitment to the job and his integrity are unmatched.”

Don Ratto, president of Ratto Bros. Inc. and head of the award’s selection committee, said under Nassif’s leadership, Western Growers has developed programs and services that added value to membership.

“He has built some great programs from food safety to technology that set our association apart,” Ratto said in the release.

Nassif said it’s been an honor advocating for the industry.

“Each and every day, I am reminded why it’s such a privilege to fight for our food heroes,” he said in the release. “Our farmers and farmworkers are some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, and their drive and dedication to feeding the world never ceases to motivate me.”

Before joining Western Growers, Nassif served in President Ronald Reagan’s administration as deputy and acting chief of protocol for the White House, deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian affairs and was ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco, according to the release.

He’ll receive the award at Western Growers’ Annual Meeting in Maui, Hawaii, on Nov. 12. For information on attending, see www.wgannualmeeting.com/ .

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