`California Producers Approve State Olive Oil Commission - Olive Oil Times

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.

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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