` California Trade Group Rescinds Membership Agreement After Backlash - Olive Oil Times

California Trade Group Rescinds Membership Agreement After Backlash

Aug. 7, 2020
Daniel Dawson

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The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) has rescinded its orig­i­nal 2020/21 mem­ber­ship agree­ment after a swift back­lash from many of the state’s farm­ers and olive oil pro­duc­ers. 

In a peti­tion sent to the organization’s board of direc­tors as well as exec­u­tive direc­tor Patricia King last month and obtained by Olive Oil Times, pro­duc­ers accused the trade asso­ci­a­tion of chang­ing the lan­guage of the agree­ment to favor California Olive Ranch’s Destination Series, an extra vir­gin olive oil blend of California and imported oils.

By allow­ing a com­pany to have the word California’ splashed on the front of the bot­tle in big and bold let­ters with­out the oil being pro­duced here, it dilutes the value of the COOC and of California olive oil.- Greg Traynor, co-owner, 43 Ranch

In the 2019/20 mem­ber­ship agree­ment, the COOC stip­u­lated: If use of California’ in any phrase such as com­pany name, brand name, or other word or group of words, or images that iden­tify California on the label of any oil sold by the mem­ber, then 100 [per­cent] of the fruit to pro­duce the oil must come solely from the state of California.”

As a result of the clause, California Olive Ranch was barred from being a mem­ber of the COOC dur­ing the past year and did not have any of their oils cer­ti­fied by the trade asso­ci­a­tion. 

See Also: Olive Oil Labeling

Prior to being removed from the COOC web­site, the newly updated 2020/21 mem­ber­ship agree­ment stated: All oils cer­ti­fied by the California Olive Oil Council must be from 100-per­cent grown and pro­duced California olives.”

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The sur­rep­ti­tious change would have allowed California Olive Ranch to rejoin the COOC and cer­tify all of their California-pro­duced oils with the trade orga­ni­za­tion, but omit the Destination Series. 

The 46 sig­na­to­ries of the peti­tion, who com­bine to make up the vast major­ity of the COOC’s pro­duc­tion and rev­enue, con­demned the deci­sion to make the change to the agree­ment, call­ing it mis­lead­ing and dam­ag­ing to the California brand that the COOC is sup­posed to pro­tect and pro­mote.” 

The COOC is the largest cer­ti­fi­ca­tion group in the state and being a mem­ber comes with sev­eral ben­e­fits, espe­cially for smaller pro­duc­ers. The COOC seal has some con­sumer recog­ni­tion and a few spe­cialty food stores in the state only stock locally-pro­duced extra vir­gin olive oil with the seal.

Many of the state’s pro­duc­ers see the role of the COOC as pro­mot­ing the qual­ity of California extra vir­gin olive oils, which are more expen­sive to pro­duce and there­fore cost con­sid­er­ably more than imported oils.

By allow­ing a com­pany to have the word California’ splashed on the front of the bot­tle in big and bold let­ters with­out the oil being pro­duced here, it dilutes the value of the COOC and of California olive oil,” Greg Traynor, co-author of the peti­tion and co-owner of 43 Ranch, told Olive Oil Times. 

When asked about the change to the word­ing of the orig­i­nal 2020/21 mem­ber­ship agree­ment, a spokes­woman for California Olive Ranch told Olive Oil Times that the com­pany had no knowl­edge of the change, but empha­sized their com­mit­ment to pro­tect­ing the integrity of California olive oil.

Michael Fox, the CEO of California Olive Ranch, also told Olive Oil Times that the com­pany did not plan on rejoin­ing the COOC and would con­tinue to have their extra vir­gin olive oils cer­ti­fied by an inde­pen­dent lab.

King would not acknowl­edge the orig­i­nal 2020/21 mem­ber­ship agree­ment when asked by Olive Oil Times. However, she said the cur­rent 2020/21 mem­ber­ship agree­ment had been approved unan­i­mously by the board of direc­tors.

We believe this require­ment clause fur­ther cham­pi­ons 100-per­cent California grown and pro­duced cer­ti­fied extra vir­gin olive oil,” King said.

The word­ing of the updated agree­ment is iden­ti­cal with the word­ing of the 2019/20 mem­ber­ship agree­ment.


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