For many months the report on olive oil competition by the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) has been sitting on my desk waiting to be read. I wasn’t dreading the several days of reading and note-taking that lay ahead. I was waiting – waiting for the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) to weigh in on the report findings (see below for the letter from the NAOOA to the USITC hearing Chair). I simply wanted my reading and assessment experience to be complete.
Why is this important?
It is important because there is a distinct political and economic battle going on in the world of olive oil. It is important because with any battle, knowledge is required: Who are the combatants? Who are their allies? What weapons do they currently have at their disposal? What weapons can they acquire? Where are the battlegrounds and where are they moving? What are supporters and opponents weaknesses and strengths? What will be the collateral damage? Is the battle worth it? …
As I pack my bags for my journey to the Olive Crazy family Christmas gathering, I am preparing a list of questions to ask myself while I read through the hundreds of pages of testimony that led to the USITC report Olive Oil: Conditions of Competition between U.S. and Major Foreign Supplier Industries, the report itself, and the report responses. What was the purpose of the USITC hearing? Who actually influenced the setting up of the hearings and what did they hope to accomplish? What factors separate bias from fact from fiction in the testimony, among the hearing panelists, and among the report authors? Do the report findings match the purpose of the hearings? Why did each individual and organization testify or respond to the report as they did? Why did the NAOOA wait until now to respond to the report? What happens next? …
Of course I bring my own biases to the reading. Those biases can easily be found in my opinion articles. Yet years of political and military training and execution have taught me that long-term success cannot be achieved without a multidimensional perspective free of bias.
Before I place all those pages of documentation in my computer bag and engage in some light holiday reading I make a promise to myself and to you to carry forward with an open mind. It won’t be easy but it must be done.
May the sun shine through your branches.