`Who’s Who On New Olive Oil Commission of California

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Who’s Who On New Olive Oil Commission of California

May. 6, 2014
Nancy Flagg

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The elec­tion results are in for the new Olive Oil Com­mis­sion of California’s inau­gural board of direc­tors. Com­mis­sion direc­tors will have the poten­tial to influ­ence the future of olive oil in the state as the group to rec­om­mend label­ing and grad­ing stan­dards to the Cal­i­for­nia Sec­re­tary of Food and Agri­cul­ture. The stan­dards they pro­pose will likely affect not only Cal­i­for­nia and U.S. grow­ers, but could ulti­mately impact importers as well.

The Olive Oil Com­mis­sion of Cal­i­for­nia was estab­lished as a result Sen­ate Bill 250, intro­duced by Lois Wolk (D‑Davis). The Com­mis­sion’s goal is to improve the state’s com­pet­i­tive­ness in the global olive oil indus­try, and its pri­mary strat­egy to reach that goal will be to set mean­ing­ful and manda­tory olive oil stan­dards.

The Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Food and Agri­cul­ture (CDFA) recently announced the elected board mem­bers who were cho­sen by their indus­try peers. The new board con­sists of ten mem­bers, includ­ing two pro­duc­ers and one han­dler from each of the three pri­mary olive oil pro­duc­ing dis­tricts in Cal­i­for­nia and a pub­lic mem­ber (not yet selected). Each rep­re­sen­ta­tive has an alter­nate mem­ber as well. The mem­bers and their affil­i­a­tions are as fol­lows:

Pro­duc­ers

Adam Engle­hardt, Kbar Farm­ing, (Alter­nate: Gregg Kel­ley, Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch)
Larry Maben, Maben Fam­ily LLC, (Alter­nate: Rich Math­ews, Sadeg Ranch Organic Olives)
John Williams, Cal Ag Prop­er­ties LLC, (Alter­nate: John Post)
Dick Neilsen, McEvoy of Marin LLC, (Alter­nate: Karl Gigu­iere, JK Vine­yards)
Jeff Colom­bini, Lodi Farm­ing, (Alter­nate: Pat Ric­chiuti, P‑R Farms, Inc.)
Richard Mar­chini, Mar­chini Ag, (Alter­nate: Josh Bar­ton, Bar­ton Ranch)

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Han­dlers

Jim Lip­man, Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch, (Alter­nate: Bren­don Flynn, Pacific Sun Gourmet)
Jim Etters, Seka Hills Olive Mill, (Alter­nate: vacant)
Brady Whit­low, Corto Olive LP, (Alter­nate: Vin­cent Ric­chiuti, ENZO Olive Oil Com­pany)

Pub­lic

(Vacant)

In addi­tion to the elec­tion of the Com­mis­sion board, the CDFA appointed a seven-mem­ber advi­sory group who will rep­re­sent the inter­ests of smaller pro­duc­ers (less than 5,000 gal­lons per year).

Com­mis­sion board mem­bers have taken active lead­er­ship roles in other state efforts to adopt olive oil stan­dards. Some mem­bers were signed sup­port­ers of Sen­ate Bill 250 and oth­ers are board mem­bers of the Cal­i­for­nia Olive Oil Coun­cil and the Amer­i­can Olive Oil Pro­duc­ers Asso­ci­a­tion (AOOPA).

Kim­berly Hould­ing, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of AOOPA, said her orga­ni­za­tion does not have an offi­cial stance on a par­tic­u­lar stan­dard it hopes the Com­mis­sion will adopt, but she is con­fi­dent that the stan­dards devel­oped will give con­sumers con­fi­dence that the bot­tle of extra vir­gin olive oil they pur­chase is authen­tic and high qual­ity. Hould­ing noted that the sci­ence of oils con­tin­ues to evolve and new stan­dards may be able to iden­tify bio­chem­i­cal mark­ers that work for U.S. olive oils.

Com­mis­sion board mem­ber John Williams wants Cal­i­for­nia olive oil brands to be known as top qual­ity oils. He antic­i­pates that the Com­mis­sion will con­sider a vari­ety of exist­ing stan­dards but believes that the inter­na­tional stan­dard is lower than what the Com­mis­sion will want to rec­om­mend. Williams named the Aus­tralian Stan­dard for Olive and Olive-Pomace Oils as a good basis for label­ing and grad­ing bench­marks. He said that what­ever stan­dards are ulti­mately pro­posed will ensure the oil is high qual­ity but will still be stan­dards that grow­ers can meet. Williams also believes that a mar­ket­ing order would be use­ful means to force importers to be hon­est” about what is in their bot­tles.

Any rec­om­men­da­tions on stan­dards made by the Com­mis­sion to the Sec­re­tary of Food and Agri­cul­ture would be sub­ject to pub­lic hear­ing. The first meet­ing of the Com­mis­sion board will be May 8 in Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia.

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