California State Senator Lois Wolk

On a bipartisan vote, the Senate approved Senate Bill 250, a measure by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to establish a state commission to help coordinate efforts by state olive growers and oil manufacturers to strengthen the competitiveness of California’s olive oil industry. The bill now moves to Governor Jerry Brown for his consideration.

“Establishing this commission is a vital first step toward protecting consumers and providing California’s olive oil industry a fair playing field where they can grow and thrive,” said Wolk, Chair of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Olive Oil Production and Emerging Products.

Senator Wolk introduced the bill in the Senate Agricultural Committee on April 16, where it was unanimously approved. “California’s olive oil industry has been growing exponentially over the past five years,” Wolk said at the time. “The industry believes it is time to support a coordinated effort to provide for olive oil research and standards to promote the sustainability and success of this important agricultural product.”

There are currently 16 active, industry-funded agricultural commissions in California created to enhance their industries’ competitiveness through promotion, advertising, education, marketing research, scientific research, and the creation and regulation of quality standards. SB 250 would create the Olive Oil Commission of California within the Department of Food and Agriculture to allow the industry to conduct research and establish product grades and standards through the Secretary of Food and Agriculture.

The measure is part of Wolk’s ongoing effort to address challenges facing the state’s expanding olive oil industry, including competitors selling fraudulent and low-quality olive oil. A study conducted by the UC Davis Olive Center found that 65 percent of imported extra-virgin olive oils bought off the shelves of California supermarkets failed to meet international standards for olive oil quality — concluding that many of the imported olive oils tested were falsely labeled as extra virgin grade.

SB 250 has numerous supporters, including the California League of Food Processors and California Olive Oil Council (COOC).

“We commend the Legislature for its passage of this important measure and applaud Senator Wolk’s vision and support for the continued growth of the olive oil industry in California,” said Patricia Darragh, the COOC’s Executive Director.

“The American Olive Oil Producers Association applauds Senator Wolk and her colleagues in Sacramento for having the foresight to pass SB 250 to establish the Olive Oil Commission of California. We encourage Governor Brown to sign this bill into law for the people of California and all those who enjoy the health benefits and the delightful fresh taste of extra virgin olive oil produced there,” said Kimberly Houlding with the American Olive Oil Producers Association. “The establishment of this commission will assure consumers that they can continue to trust the exceptional quality of California extra virgin olive oil.”

“The passage of SB 250 is an important and exciting milestone for the California olive oil industry. The need for olive oil standards and support in important areas of the business including marketing are critical to the future of the industry in our state. I strongly encourage the Governor to sign this bill as a major step in laying a foundation from which the olive oil business can continue its rapid growth,” said Dick Neilsen, General Manager of McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma.

“As a small artisan olive oil producer we welcome the establishment of the Olive Oil Commission of California. Their regulations, research, and marketing will serve both small and large producers fostering California’s growing recognition as producers of world class olive oil,” said Lillian Dickson with Regina Extra Virgin Olive Oil, grown and produced in Napa.

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