California Senate Bill 818 (SB 818), by Senator Lois Wolk, Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Olive Oil Production and Emerging Products, has passed the California State Senate unanimously. The next stage in the process is that the bill will be heard by the Assembly Agriculture Committee on June 29, 2011. If successful, this legislation will place California’s olive oil standards in conformity with the recently established new USDA standards and provide further substance to support of those standards.
Most importantly, the revision will facilitate the marketing of olive oil, employ terms consistent with the marketplace, provide definitions for olive oil, promote truth in labeling and provide a basis for enforcement by State and Federal agencies if these products are mislabeled.
“This legislation is a necessary first step if we want to protect consumers, who are demanding more and more of this healthy product, and provide California olive growers and olive oil producers a fair marketplace in which they can compete and thrive,” Wolk said. “We can’t hold bad actors accountable if we don’t first set clear standards. Once we have strong standards in place, we can work on enforcement.”
The industry has stood firmly behind Senator Wolk’s support of better standards for olive oil production and labeling. While last year’s passage of revised USDA standards was a significant step forward, its voluntary program lacked meaningful impact on enforcement. Legislative actions, such as those proposed by Senator Wolk, will give added substance to the quality standards that the industry has fought to achieve. Dan Flynn, Executive Director of University of California’s Olive Center agrees with the importance of the legislation. “This bill would certainly strengthen California’s olive oil standards and support the needs of California olive oil producers,” stated Flynn.
The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) has asked the industry to demonstrate the importance of this legislation by sending letters of support to Senator Lois Wolk by June 17, 2011, in time for those comments to be considered before the next review on June 29, 2011 by the Assembly Agriculture Committee.
“SB 818, introduced and amended by Senator Lois Wolk would require adoption of the USDA standards for grades of olive oil. Approval of the bill would benefit the California olive oil industry and significantly assist the growth and success of our California olive oils,“ said COOC Executive Director, Patty Darragh. The COOC believes it is important that the Legislature hear from the industry and know that it supports SB818.
Letters supporting the passage of SB 818 should be sent to:
Senator Lois Wolk
Chair, Senate Subcommittee on Olive Oil Production and Emerging Products
State Capitol, Room 5114
Sacramento, CA 95814