Sep 10, 2019Western Growers’ Award of Honor to go to Tom Nassif
Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers since 2002, has been named the 2019 Award of Honor recipient for his innovative approach to addressing key issues confronting agriculture and unprecedented influence in shaping the fresh produce industry. The Award of Honor is Western Growers’ highest recognition of industry achievement.
“Each and every day, I am reminded why it’s such a privilege to fight for our food heroes. 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,” said Nassif. “Advocating for the industry for the past two decades has been a true honor, and I am humbled to receive this prestigious award.”
Prior to Nassif’s tenure at Western Growers, he was as a lawyer specializing in agricultural labor, where he represented the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association and was one of the first attorneys to try a case before the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. He also served as a partner at DLA Piper, a global law firm. He later used his skills as a labor negotiator to help drive the completion of an immigration bill in 2013 that passed the Senate with bipartisan support. Unfortunately the bill was not taken up by the House.
“I met Tom Nassif in 1971, during the contentious labor battles in the Yuma area,” said Gary Pasquinelli, co-owner/CEO of Pasquinelli Produce Company. “When we hired Tom, we knew we had a good man. 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.”
Nassif’s passion for protecting the long-term viability of farms in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico has directly resulted in laws and programs that will have a lasting impact on the industry. Shortly after taking the leadership reins at Western Growers, Nassif spearheaded the effort to prioritize specialty crops on a federal level. He helped pass the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act as part of the Agriculture Appropriations Bill; this was the first time in history that specialty crops received recognition in federal policy. He also played a vital role in the successful implementation of specialty crop provisions in the farm bill.
“He has ‘raised the bar’ for performance and accountability for all of us in our industry,” said Vic Smith, president/CEO of J.V Smith Companies. “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.”
Additionally, Nassif helped navigate the industry through the tumultuous 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak, which led the creation of the industry’s first self-regulating food safety regime – the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. He continues to aid the advancement of the industry through groundbreaking agricultural technology initiatives, providing growers access to viable technologies that will allow their farm to remain sustainable in the face of escalating global competition and an increasingly stringent regulatory environment. This includes the launch of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology – a premier agtech incubator – and the AgSharks Competition.
“It has been my good fortune to be involved in this industry with a person of his caliber. Under his leadership, this organization has done a wonderful job of developing additional products and services that have brought great value to our membership. He has built some great programs from food safety to technology that set our association apart. I don’t think there is anyone who has done any more than he has,” said Ratto Bros. President Ron Ratto, who led the selection committee for the 2019 Award of Honor recipient.
Nassif’s remarkable career is highlighted by his service in President Ronald Reagan’s administration where he worked in several capacities, including deputy and acting chief of protocol for the White House; deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian affairs; and ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco. Nassif’s achievements and service to the industry will be recognized at the Award of Honor Dinner at Western Growers’ Annual Meeting in Maui, Hawaii, on November 12, 2019. There, Nassif will be honored by his peers, friends and family. To attend the ceremony, visit www.wgannualmeeting.com.