05 Oct

Californian Olive growers decry foreign subsidies

Life as a California olive farmer isn’t exactly easy these days, farmers say U.S. government is hurting, not helping. The number of olives harvested across the state this season is expected to shrivel by about 86 percent from last year. The price schedule for growers is the same as last season despite the dried-up supply. Some growers don’t even know if picking their fruit will be worth it.
 

And now, adding insult to injury, many olive farmers say their own government is working against them.
 
In an effort to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth in Morocco, the U.S. government has promised to give $301 million to the North African country to help farmers there rehabilitate existing olive trees and expand production of olive, almond and fig trees.
 
Morocco is one of California’s largest foreign competitors. Moroccan farmers, because of the subsidies they receive from the U.S. government, are able to send lower-priced fruit here and undercut domestic prices.
 
“It’s ludicrous,” said Rod Burkett, a local grower who farms 29 acres of Manzanilla olives and one acre of Sevillano olives. “We’re a small industry. We have less than 24,000 acres (of olive trees) in the state. [Morocco] has more than 1 million acres. That gives them a real advantage. Now [the U.S. government] is taking my tax money and giving it to those people so they can make their trees more productive.”
 
Created by Congress in 2004, the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) is a foreign-aid agency that, according to its website, “is helping lead the fight against global poverty.”
 
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