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CGA’s Fong Pleased With Strategic Conference 2014

Ron Fong

Last updated on September 29th, 2014 at 08:48 am

Ron Fong, president and CEO of the California Grocers Association (CGA), spoke with The Shelby Report’s VP-West, Bob Reeves, during the CGA Strategic Conference Sept. 21-23.

It was the conference’s third year in Palm Springs, and “I think it’s the best one this year,” Fong said. “A little over 850 attendees, which is better than last year, so we’re making incremental progress.

“But I think what is most important is to bring value to the people that are here.”

Toward that goal, CGA this year added a “California Grown” pavilion to the show, with several produce companies taking part.

Importantly, CGA also requested that its retailer members bring their produce buyers to the show for a mutually beneficial situation.

The produce companies “seem to be doing really well and have been exposed to produce buyers within our retail membership. Everybody seems to be happy,” Fong said.

On the legislative front, the top-of-mind issue at the moment is the plastic bag ban bill that is sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. He has until Sept. 30 to sign SB 270, which would provide much-needed uniformity on this issue. And it is expected that he will sign it.

“That bill calls for the elimination of single-use plastic bags and a 10-cent charge on paper bags,” Fong explained. “As you know, we’ve been working on this bill for about four years now. We’re trying to get a statewide effort to mirror the 110 different cities and counties that already have a bag ban. The bill did pass the legislature this year; it’s on the governor’s desk. And we are anticipating that he will sign it. But we are still waiting to hear when he will sign it. We’re hoping it’s next week sometime.”

On the agricultural front, California is in the midst of its third straight year of drought, which is very unusual for the state. Usually a year of drought will be followed by a year with normal rainfall, which tends to even things out. Not so today, which will impact tomorrow—and next year.

“We have not been able to work through three years in a row, so we’re going to see some effect of the drought in agriculture, in beef prices, in 2015. You have to think about harvesting one year in advance, so prices that are on the shelf in grocery stores in 2014, that agriculture was probably harvested last year.”

As a result, a controversial bill emerged in the state legislature this year that proposed regulating groundwater.

“Agriculture uses a large supply of water, obviously,” Fong said. “Ag has used groundwater for years, and some agricultural fields have abused the groundwater, and if we’re not careful, we are going to abuse that system to a fault, where we won’t have groundwater.”

According to Fong, Gov. Brown did sign groundwater legislation that will start monitoring the amount of groundwater used for agriculture and crops.

Find photos from the CGA Strategic Conference here.

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