(April 9) Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers Association plans to open an office in Washington, D.C., on April 30 to better serve grower-shippers with a full-time lobbying presence.

Matt McInerney, executive vice president, will temporarily head the office while a search is carried out for a federal government affairs staff.

“Our membership has a constituency that represents about 50% of the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, and it only seems appropriate that we would have a Washington, D.C., office to further the evolution of our representation for our member base,” McInerney said.

McInerney said it’s important to be in Washington considering the number of federal issues facing the industry, including immigration, the emerging farm bill or food safety.

He said the office enhances the work of Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer, Jasper Hempel, executive vice president and general counsel and others who regularly travel to Washington, D.C.

“It’s difficult when you’re 3,000 miles away and you get a phone call saying there’s a meeting on an issue in two hours and you’re unable to participate,” McInerney said. “I foresee this as the key point person, the director of the office would be developing personal relationships with members of Congress and key regulatory agencies that we have topical issues with.”

He said a search is under way for someone to head the office, concentrating on the Washington, D.C., area.