This past Wednesday, Adam Englehardt of California Olive Ranch gave a two-part presentation to members of the Georgia Olive Growers Association, some Florida growers, USDA employees, Congressional staffers, and other involved parties. The first part of the presentation was data to support the proposed marketing order and the second part was a section by section look at the order.
No, I’m not going to divulge any aspects of the actual marketing order. I am honor-bound not to do so and while that doesn’t mean much to some folks, it does to me.
What I am going to do is identify what I have determined is a fly in the ointment of the proposed US olive oil marketing order. The ‘fly’ is small and annoying right now but after feasting on distrust and resulting ill-will has the potential of tanking the marketing order. It makes me wonder – naivete or plan?
Prior to the presentation and meeting on Wednesday I had no opinion about the order. After reading the proposed marketing order and after considering the options and opportunities it presents for the United States olive industry I support the concept. The language is still rough and some crucial pieces are missing.
During Adam’s first presentation, I began to hear the fly. Throughout it the buzzing got louder and finally subsided when he launched into the marketing order section review. Then all of a sudden the buzzing started again and the fly began to furiously circle the room.
So Olive Crazy what does the fly represent? The fly is the niggle in the back of your brain. It is the hair standing up on your arms or the back of your neck. It is the bad omen. It is the sign of danger.
I have had and in some cases still enjoy successful careers in the military, politics, and business. Not only do I make sure I am well-educated in the areas in which I operate; can implement what I know at strategic and tactical levels; but I have great instincts and I trust them. The fly in this article is representing my instinct that some things aren’t adding up and these things, unless resolved now, will cause trouble.
Here are a few of those things:
- Spain is the largest exporter of olive oil in the world (not Italy – they’ve got a bottling scheme going on which makes people think they are).
- Spain is a charter member of the International Olive Council (IOC) which is controlled by olive oil mega corporations who have been identified as exporters of fake olive oil (seed oils masquerading as olive oil) and/or low-grade olive oil masquerading as extra virgin olive oil.
- Spanish investors started California Olive Ranch in the 1990s and still hold the reins.
- The California Olive Ranch is carrying the ball for the marketing order.
- The California Olive Ranch, with limited input, has created a national olive oil trade association, hired a lobbyist at the federal level, and have already commenced lobbying even though there is no record of lobbyist registration.
- A representative from Agromillora, Spain’s largest olive grower, was sitting in the room with us during Adam’s presentation.
- Adam Englehardt, who I genuinely like, claims to be politically naive, yet is making politically-sensitive decisions for an entire industry.
There are more items I could add to this list, my intention is not to sabotage the olive oil marketing order process but to alert United States olive oil stakeholders of pending problems, which can be fixed. The marketing order process is 10% business and 90% political. The 90% includes governmental, business, and personality driven politics. Strategic errors are being made which will destroy the best efforts of American olive growers and olive oil producers to enter, in any meaningful way, the global olive oil business, much less combat a cracking, but still powerful, Europe-based world olive oil trade.
If the market order process isn’t done properly the consumers of the world’s largest potential olive oil market, the east coast of the United States, will still have to buy price-altered, fake and low-quality imported olive oil, while US olive oil is relegated to the annals of agriculture as a quaint novelty.
May the sun shine through your branches.