If a bill currently working its way through the legislative process is successful, California could have a new State commission to oversee its olive oil industry. Senate Bill 250 to create an “Olive Oil Commission of California” was approved today, April 29, by a 6 – 0 vote in the State Senate Appropriations Committee.
Senator Lois Wolk, who introduced the bill in the Senate Agricultural Committee where it was unanimously approved on April 16, commented that “California’s olive oil industry has been growing exponentially over the past five years. 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.”
The bill would create a commission to recommend olive oil grades and labeling standards to the Secretary of Food and Agriculture. The bill would also allow the commission to fund its operations by levying an assessment of no more than twenty-five cents ($ 0.25) per gallon on olive producers (those who process over 5,000 gallons per season) and handlers, excluding retailers.
The California Olive Oil Council estimates that California growers will produce 2.4 million gallons of olive oil in 2013.
The bill is supported by the California Olive Oil Council, California Olive Ranch, Bari Olive Oil Company and other olive oil producers. There was no opposition to the bill.
Kyle Sawatzky, president of Bari Olive Oil Company, said “the bill is going to be really important to us as a vehicle to assess ourselves, collect money and do research that will help support standards.” Sawatzky believes that the commission would “create consistency of product in the marketplace” and ensure that all growers follow the same guidelines.
California has commissions for 16 other agricultural products, including apples, avocados, blueberries, strawberries and rice.
The olive oil commission bill will next be considered by the full Senate. If passed by the Senate, the bill will be heard by the Assembly before going to the Governor. Even if the bill is approved by the Governor, the bill would not become operative until olive oil producers have voted on and approved it.