The California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) announced the planned departure of its president, John Aguirre, effective May 31, 2022. He started with the association on June 1, 2010.
“Leading CAWG has been a dream job,” Aguirre said. “I’ve had the privilege of working for outstanding volunteer leaders who are dedicated to the idea of advocacy on behalf of winegrape growers. I could not contemplate a better conclusion to my career as an association executive. My wife and I are planning a new chapter in our lives with a move to Portugal mid-year, but I intend to maintain my relationship with the wine industry.”
Tom Slater, of Slater Farms in Clarksburg and chair of the CAWG board of directors said, “We are grateful that John gave us 12 years of steady leadership and his unwavering commitment to growers’ interests. No matter how tough the issues, he always provided a reassuring voice and wise counsel.”
Under Aguirre’s leadership, CAWG increased its presence in Washington, D.C. by hiring a new federal government affairs team. Since 2010, CAWG has advocated for well-funded plant pest and disease programs and for a revamped agricultural guestworker program, obtained relief for winegrape growers from the Food and Drug Administration’s produce safety rule, and secured federal money for new programs of research on wildfire smoke issues and disaster assistance for growers affected by wildfires. More recently, Aguirre played a key role in the formation and operation of the West Coast Smoke Exposure Task Force, a group comprised of industry representatives from California, Oregon and Washington.
At the state level, CAWG twice succeeded in reauthorizing grower assessments to address Pierce’s disease, the glassy-winged sharpshooter and the control of other pests; passed amendments to California’s processors law; and worked to protect growers from onerous new labor and environmental regulations.
Aguirre has spent his career working on agriculture and food policy. He began his career in the U.S. Congress working for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and later for the House Committee on Agriculture. After leaving Capitol Hill, he worked for two food industry associations in Washington, D.C., and immediately prior to joining CAWG, Aguirre served as executive director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries.
To ensure a smooth transition, Aguirre is working closely with Slater, who will meet with the CAWG board of directors this month to consider and formalize a transition plan. “The association is strong and we are well equipped to transition to new leadership,” Slater said.