Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Fair Trade USA Splits From International Community

What does the split mean for those looking for an ethical cup of coffee?

Coffee Splash

Photo: Nick Olejniczak (flickr)

Rice argues splitting from the international community would provide greater opportunity. Not everyone is convinced.

The Breakup

Do you know where your cup of coffee came from? With changes in effect to Fair Trade USA, it may be even harder to trace.

President of Fair Trade USA Paul Rice announced the organization would be splitting from the world fair trade organization FLO in January.

Rice argued FLO was inconsistent with its certifications, with coffee being impacted the most.

David Vs. Goliath

Currently, world standards dictate that to be certified fair trade, coffee must be grown in small cooperatives. Fair Trade USA’s split means large farms can be certified fair trade.

This troubles small farmers as the cornerstone of the movement was to support the little guy. By inviting large farms into the Fair Trade USA certification, the door is open for corporations to receive the label.

Coffee giants like Starbucks have resisted using more fair trade coffee in part because they deal with large farms, not the co-ops that the international fair trade community supports. By certifying the large farms, Starbucks gets the best of both worlds — they meet demands to supply so-called fair trade coffee while not having to change their business model.

Fair trade means farmers are paid a living wage and they sell their products directly to the market for higher prices than standard products.

Read More:

  • Fair Trade USA Splits From International Fair Trade Organization, Favoring the Corporatization of Coffee (Tree Hugger)
  • Fair Trade USA: Why We Parted Ways with Fair Trade International (Triple Pundit)
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Bloomington, Indiana. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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