John Aguirre
John Aguirre

The California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) announced in a news release the planned departure of its president, John Aguirre, effective May 31. 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.” 

According to the release, under Aguirre’s leadership, CAWG increased its presence in Washington, D.C., and since 2010 has advocated for well-funded plant pest and disease programs, a revamped agricultural guestworker program and federal funding for new research programs on wildfire smoke issues and disaster assistance for growers affected by wildfires. Aguirre also 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 new labor and environmental regulations, according to the release.

“We are grateful that John gave us 12 years of steady leadership and his unwavering commitment to growers’ interests,” Tom Slater, chair of the CAWG board of directors, said in the release. “No matter how tough the issues, he always provided a reassuring voice and wise counsel.”

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. Immediately prior to joining CAWG, Aguirre served as executive director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries. 

Aguirre will work closely with Slater and the CAWG board of directors to ensure a smooth transition for the organization. He and his wife plan to move to Portugal later this year. 

by Jonelle Mejica