`California Producers Approve State Olive Oil Commission

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California Producers Approve State Olive Oil Commission

Mar. 29, 2014
Nancy Flagg

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This week, Cal­i­for­nia pro­duc­ers voted into exis­tence a new Olive Oil Com­mis­sion of Cal­i­for­nia with an eye toward enhanc­ing the com­pet­i­tive­ness of the state’s olive oil indus­try.

In 2013, Sen­a­tor Lois Wolk (D‑Davis) intro­duced Sen­ate Bill 250 declar­ing the Cal­i­for­nia olive oil indus­try a pub­lic inter­est” and estab­lish­ing a Com­mis­sion. The bill was approved by the state Assem­bly and Sen­ate and signed by the Gov­er­nor, but still required a ref­er­en­dum vote of pro­duc­ers before the Com­mis­sion could become oper­a­tive. In Feb­ru­ary and March 2014, the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Food and Agri­cul­ture (CDFA) con­ducted a mail-in bal­lot vote and announced this week that state olive oil pro­duc­ers endorsed the Com­mis­sion.

Accord­ing to an Amer­i­can Olive Oil Pro­duc­ers Asso­ci­a­tion (AOOPA), 86 per­cent of the par­tic­i­pat­ing pro­duc­ers voted in favor of the Com­mis­sion. With their resound­ing vote, Cal­i­for­nia grow­ers have made an unequiv­o­cal state­ment” in sup­port of estab­lish­ing indus­try stan­dards, said Kim­berly Hould­ing, AOOPA exec­u­tive direc­tor.

Enzo Olive Oil’s Vin­cent Ric­chiuti

Vin­cent Ric­chiuti of the Enzo Olive Oil Com­pany said the vote shows that Cal­i­for­nia pro­duc­ers over­whelm­ingly are excited about get­ting stan­dards for olive oil that help con­sumers trust that bot­tles are prop­erly labeled and they can trust what’s inside.”

AOOPA acted as the pro­po­nent orga­ni­za­tion work­ing with the CDFA in the ref­er­en­dum process by help­ing edu­cate grow­ers about the Com­mis­sion and its imple­men­ta­tion steps, said Hould­ing. Only the larger grow­ers, those who pro­duced more than 5,000 gal­lons of olive oil in the 2012 sea­son, were eli­gi­ble to vote and are also the only ones who would be required to adhere to Com­mis­sion rules. Of the 74 vote-eli­gi­ble pro­duc­ers, 50 (or 68 per­cent) sub­mit­ted valid bal­lots, said Joe Mon­son of the CDFA.

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In Cal­i­for­nia, the com­mis­sion form of gov­ern­ment gives those involved in an indus­try the oppor­tu­nity to rep­re­sent their inter­ests through col­lec­tive action. The new Olive Oil Com­mis­sion of Cal­i­for­nia is empow­ered to con­duct research and rec­om­mend to the Sec­re­tary of Food and Agri­cul­ture the adop­tion of olive oil grades and label­ing stan­dards. The Com­mis­sion is also autho­rized to levy annual assess­ments on pro­duc­ers to fund the work of the Com­mis­sion and to assess penal­ties on per­sons who fail to fur­nish required reports.

The next step in the Com­mis­sion imple­men­ta­tion process is an elec­tion for the Board of Direc­tors. The Board will con­sist of 10 mem­bers drawn from 3 Cal­i­for­nia olive oil-pro­duc­ing dis­tricts. Nom­i­na­tions and the elec­tion will occur on April 1 and 2. Small grow­ers who pro­duce less than 5,000 gal­lons of oil per year also have an oppor­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in Com­mis­sion activ­i­ties through an advi­sory com­mit­tee. Appli­ca­tions for the com­mit­tee are being accepted by the CDFA until April 2.

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