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Senate Announces Subcommittee on Olive Oil Production and Emerging Products

 
By Caroline J. Beck
03/01/2011

The Senate has named Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to chair a newly constituted subcommittee tasked with identifying burgeoning agricultural products and investigating competitive practices and methods to foster product growth and consumer awareness. The panel will focus on competitive barriers, consumer education and quality enforcement.

The newly established Senate Subcommittee on Olive Oil Production and Emerging Products will be under the Senate Agriculture Committee with an initial focus on California’s olive oil industry. According to a spokesperson for the Senator, this area is a natural for Wolk to focus on. She has been heavily involved in agricultural issues for many years, and her 5th District constituents include University of California Davis, and many olive growers and producers, both artisan and large-scale.

“I am looking forward to working with the olive oil industry, hearing their challenges and forging solutions to insure a sustainable industry that can compete in the global marketplace,” said Senator Wolk. “California’s Mediterranean climate is particularly well suited to growing olives. Olive oil production is a green industry which provides a heart-healthy product. It deserves our attention and support.”

Similar to legislative efforts supporting the wine industry during its emerging growth phase, the specific goal of this subcommittee is to raise the profile of the olive oil industry, its growing impact on California and any imbalanced competitive issues or other barriers that might inhibit growth. Senate subcommittee actions typically include holding hearings, forums, and tours to build a foundation of familiarity with the industry. If there is an identified need for specific legislation, proposals can be put forth from this group.

“One of the first goals of the committee is to focus on consumer education and truth in labeling. Last year’s study by UC Davis concluded that many imported olive oils that claimed to be extra virgin were not. I believe that consumers need to know what they are getting and get what they pay for. If it says “extra virgin” on the label, it should be extra virgin olive oil in the bottle,” declared Senator Wolk.

Dan Flynn, Executive Director of the UC Davis Olive Center, and 20-year veteran of California legislature, said, “California is producing high quality olive oil. We are encouraged that Senator Wolk is focusing on the issues of concern to this rapidly growing industry.”

The Senate Subcommittee membership includes Senator Noreen Evens (D-Santa Rosa) and Doug La Malfa (R-Richvale). It is anticipated that the first action will be to hold a hearing within the next two months to focus on competitive barriers to market entry and growth. Subsequent activities will be announced as the panel formulates a more detailed review of industry need.

“The California Olive Oil Council is pleased that the California Senate recognizes the importance and growth of the olive oil industry in California with the formation of a new Senate Subcommittee on Olive Oil and emerging Products to be headed by Senator Lois Wolk,” said Bruce Golino, Board Member and past President of the COOC.
Brady Whitlow, President, Corto Olive commented, “California olive oil is considered to be among the best in the world, however, our industry is under assault as European olive oil producers look to flood the United States with cheap, frequently mislabeled oils to sell to unsuspecting consumers. It is our hope that Senator Wolk will call attention to this ongoing problem, raise consumer awareness and enable our industry to increase demand among American consumers while enabling our industry to mature, expand and hire more people.”

Gregg Kelley, President and CEO, California Olive Ranch observed, “This new committee is very timely. The California olive oil industry has a bright future as long as we can compete on a level playing field with European producers. I am encouraged that the legislature is placing a focus on our issues.”