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Fair Trade

Fair Trade


You’ve probably seen the logo while browsing the aisles at your natural products store: Fair Trade Certified chocolate, coffee, tea, herbs, or maybe even wine. Fair trade is a socially responsible food movement that aims to empower farmers by offering a premium price for their harvest. Choosing Fair Trade Certified products is one way to make your dollars matter and have a positive global impact.

The Fair Trade Certified label is sponsored by Fair Trade USA, the leading third-party certifier of fair trade products in this country. According to Fair Trade USA, fair trade practices use a market-based approach that allows farmers to get a fair price for their harvest, help them create safe working conditions, and provide a decent living wage. They enliven developing countries and promote environmental sustainability. Funds are specially designated for social, economic, and environmental development projects, and each community determines how the funds are used. Farming and working families are able to eat better, keep their kids in school, improve health and housing, and invest in the future.

While Fair Trade Certified products aren’t necessarily organic, fair trade does encourage farmers to transition to organic agriculture by offering them a higher price for organic products. In addition to paying sometimes as much as twice the price of the conventionally grown crop (as is the case with coffee), importers who do business with Fair Trade Certified growers must also extend credit to them if needed and provide technical assistance—this support often helps the farmers make the switch to organic.However, even for nonorganic products, environmental standards are integral to fair trade. These include protecting water resources and natural vegetation areas, promoting agricultural diversification and erosion control, restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers,banning the use of genetically modified organisms, and requiring proper management of waste,water, and energy. Receiving a fair price makes it easier for farmers to practice sustainable agriculture and protect local ecosystems.

Fair Trade USA recently created a buzz when it announced that it would make some changes in the kinds of products that get its seal of approval—specifically coffee. While coffee from large plantations couldn’t previously be designated Fair Trade Certified (fair trade coffee and cocoa traditionally come from smallscale farms organized into cooperatives), the group says that allowing coffee grown on large plantations to be designated Fair Trade Certified will benefit more farmers and workers and make it easier for large corporations to sell Fair Trade Certified products. Some critics fear that small farmers will lose market share to the big plantations. Whatever the outcome, the principles of fair trade have a positive impact on farmers and workers around the globe and provide the consumer with a better quality product. Choosing Fair Trade Certified products is one way to use your spending power to promote social responsibility and a cleaner, greener planet.

Fair Trade USA, fairtradeusa.org • “A Question of Fairness” by William Neuman, New York Times, 11/23/11
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