It’s a pressing matter for the tiny U.S. olive oil industry: American shoppers more often are going for European imports, which are cheaper and viewed as more authentic.
And that’s pitting U.S. producers against importers of the European oil, with some likening the battle to the California wine industry’s struggles to gain acceptance decades ago.
The tiny California olive industry says European olive oil filling U.S. shelves often is mislabeled and lower-grade oil, and they’re pushing the federal government to give more scrutiny to imported varieties. One congressman-farmer even goes so far as suggesting labels on imported oil say “extra rancid” rather than “extra virgin.”
Imposing stricter standards might help American producers grab more market share from the Europeans, who produce in bulk and now have 97 percent of the U.S. market.
Olive oil production is growing steadily. The domestic industry, with mostly high-end specialty brands, has gone from 1 percent of the national olive oil market five years ago to 3 percent today. Most of the production is in California, although there are smaller operations in Texas, Georgia and a few other states.
Seeking to build on that, the domestic industry has mounted an aggressive push in Washington, holding olive oil tastings for members of Congress and lobbying them to put stricter standards on imports. The strategy almost worked last year when industry-proposed language became part of a massive farm bill passed out of the House Agriculture Committee.US olive oil pushing government to test imported oils,
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