CLFP staff traveled to Washington, D.C. in early August with a California Olive Association (COA) delegation that included olive processors and growers. The purpose of the trip was to meet with officials with federal agencies and members of Congress to discuss a wide range of priority issues.  One of the key topics discussed was the unfair advantage that foreign producers of table olives enjoy due to generous direct and indirect subsidies. Producers in Spain and other countries have increased their market share in the U.S. due in great part to the subsidies. The U.S. government, under the auspices of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), is adding to this problem by providing millions of dollars of financial aid to growers in Morocco to plant new olive orchards and to rehabilitate existing orchards. Morocco is one of the largest exporters of table olives, exporting substantial volumes of lower quality product to the U.S. that is used by the food service industry. The MCC project may generate more excess supply in Morocco that may ultimately be shipped to the U.S. market.

In addition to the trade issues, the COA delegation discussed the need to develop an efficient olive mechanical harvester that will help California growers cope with labor shortages in the U.S. and compete with foreign growers who benefit from low-cost harvesting labor. The California olive industry has conducted extensive research in recent years to develop a harvester but is looking for a more effective machine. In addition, the growers may have to reconfigure many orchards to accommodate the use of a mechanical harvester.

The COA group met with USDA officials to discuss the development of a crop insurance program for olive growers, olive pest and disease problems that require USDA funding, and issues regarding the inspection of imported olives to ensure they meet U.S. quality standards. In addition to the agency visits the COA group met with a number of congressional offices to discuss the industry’s concerns and the need for the U.S. Congress to be actively engaged with protecting domestic producers from unfair foreign competition. The meetings were very informative and COA will be following up on the issues over the coming months.

Article written by Rob Neenan, CLFP Senior Vice President.

California League Of Food Producers