Open Letter to Fair Trade USA CEO Paul Rice
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST
Enter Email
CONTRIBUTE TODAY
FOLLOW US ON
FEATURED CAMPAIGN

 Watch the Video

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare

June 27, 2012

 

 

Mr. Paul Rice, CEO and
Members of the Board of Directors
Fairtrade USA

Dear Paul Rice and Members of the Board of Directors,

We, committed fair trade stakeholders, have been disappointed by the historic actions of Fair Trade USA (FTUSA), especially in recent months, to the point that we can no longer consider FTUSA a valid fair trade certifier and partner without significant changes to its practices. The undersigned have outlined the most important actions that contradict fair trade principles and what FTUSA can do by specific times, to gain credibility and support again in the Fair Trade movement and marketplace.

We believe that FTUSA unilateral actions have undermined FTUSA’s accountability to the very farmers and organizations it purports to help, weakening the integrity of the fair trade movement in the United States, and confusing fair trade companies, activists, consumers and farmers worldwide. The decisions to change the organization’s name from Transfair USA to Fair Trade USA, abandoning FLO and the international system, and expanding the controversial plantation model to coffee, were all made without broad stakeholder consultation or support. Numerous public statements by fair trade producers, artisans, students and other stakeholders have denounced these unilateral and harmful actions.

FTUSA’s strategy to relax fair trade standards in an effort to increase sales and licensing fees, while reducing accountability to farmers, may net some short-term corporate victories. However, FTUSA threatens the deeper foundational goals of the fair trade movement. Fair trade aims to ensure a dignified life to small and marginalized producers by transforming trade relationships and providing market access, while promoting transparency and accountability in trade.

From April 30 – May 2, many diverse voices within the global and domestic fair trade movement came together to discuss how to rebuild a movement that strengthens the integrity and values of fair trade. The meeting included representatives of the many sectors in the domestic and international fair trade movement: farmers, farmer networks, farm workers, organizers, domestic farmers, cooperative fair trade companies, corporate fair trade companies, NGOs and academics. Overlapping sectors and networks joined together to forge a common agenda and strengthen our commitment to develop and implement best fair trade practices, not lowest common denominators. The final day of the gathering included a dialogue with fair trade certifiers and standard bearers, including an FTUSA representative.

Shifting from unfair trade practices requires different tools and approaches than those that led to the unfairness. Adopting “business as usual” strategies may seem efficient but we believe this strategy will ultimately reinforce many of the problems we are all committed to changing, such as unequal market access and marginalization of those most vulnerable to negative impacts of global trade policies and practices.

While FTUSA has done much to develop public awareness and support for fair trade in the USA, we reject FTUSA’s attempts to speak for the entire fair trade movement and call upon FTUSA to change its course. We do not ask you to be perfect, as we recognize the complexity of the work this movement is doing. Yet due to the complexity of change, we do insist that FTUSA openly collaborate with the movement, embody true accountability to all Fair Trade stakeholders and immediately cease unilateral action. Specifically:

  • The governance structure of FTUSA should represent and be vetted by the fair trade movement. We call upon FTUSA to develop a transparent and representative governance structure and process that is accountable to the larger fair trade movement. We ask that a new structure and process proposal, including a transition plan for implementation, be made available for public comment by September 1st.
  • We ask that you immediately cease plans to open up coffee certification on large-scale operations. As a movement we are all committed to improving the lives of workers on large-scale farms, yet we do not have movement-wide consensus that certifying large-scale farms will transform the current unjust system, nor improve the livelihoods of both small producers and workers. The experience of other plantation-produced products, such as tea and bananas, has yet to prove the justification of this approach. To be an active participant in the movement, it is necessary to consider all market and non-market mechanisms of transformation and this needs to be done before labels are approved.

We call on you to join all of us in our march for justice, dignity and democracy.

Alta Gracia
Amavida Coffee
Bean North (Canada)
Cafe Cambio
Cafe Campesino (GA) 
Canaan Fair Trade
CLAC—The Latin American and Caribbean Network of Small Fair Trade Producers
Cloudforest Initiatives
Community to Community Development
Cooperative Coffees
Coutts Coffee (Canada)
Dean’s Beans
Discovery Organics
Doma Coffee
Domestic Fair Trade Association
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap
Equal Exchange
Equator Coffee (Canada) 
Fair World Project
Family Farm Defenders
Food Chain Workers Alliance
Heine Brothers Coffee (KY)
Higher Grounds Trading Company
Just Works Consulting
Just Coffee Cooperative
JUSTA
KUSIKUY
Made By Hand
Maggie’s Organics
Organic Valley
Presbyterian Hunger Program, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rural Advancement Foundation International-US
Santropol Coffee
Sweetwater Coffee (FL) 
Third Coast Coffee
United Students for Fair Trade
Vermont Coffee Company

 

Add your name and/or organizational affiliation to the open letter.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare

Fair Trade for Farmers and Soil

Plowing field with oxen

Small-scale organic farming and regenerative agricultural practices combat our climate crisis and help feed the world. Here are just a few of the ways that fair trade producers and their brand partners are collaborating to grow ethical supply chains through regenerative organic agricultural methods, and producing goods that we can all feel good about. This […]

The Hidden History Made at Sakuma Brothers Farms

Picking blueberries: Copyright David Bacon

History was made on September 12, 2016 with the election of Familias Unidas por la Justicia to be the union representing berry pickers at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Washington state. Three perspectives on what that means for farmworkers, farmers, and our food system. History was made on September 12, 2016 with the election of Familias […]

Food Waste, Hunger and Climate Change

Food Wastage Footprint and Climate Change, Rome FAQ

As a child, you likely heard some variation of the cliché, “Eat all your food; there are starving people in the world.” While hunger remains one of humanity’s greatest challenges, the underlying causes are not as clear as one might think. Written by Ryan Zinn As a child, you likely heard some variation of the […]

Fair Cannabis?

Trimming

For decades, workers have flocked to Northern California and Southern Oregon to work the fall cannabis harvest. Some are migrants on their seasonal tour. Others are driven by an interest in cannabis culture, or by the promise of lucrative pay. While some “trimmers” have had pleasant, safe and profitable experiences, many have not. Written by […]

Sustainable Public Procurement:

Sustainable Public Procurement

An Understated and Effective Way to Grow Fair Trade Sales of fair trade products have grown in leaps and bounds, especially in Europe. While this growth is encouraging, supply from producers in the Global South is well ahead of demand from consumers in the North. How do we close this gap? Here’s a practical guide […]

Trading Down: How Unfair Trade Hurts Farmers

United States farm incomes sharply declined in 2016 for the third year in a row. Prices for wheat and corn are currently at ten-year lows, and in many cases U.S. farmers are paid below the cost of production for what they produce. While these low prices hurt U.S. farmers, when the crops are exported by […]

Grow Ahead: Crowdfunding Climate Resilience

Fair World Project is launching Grow Ahead, an online crowdfunding platform. For the first time, individual consumers can forge an intimate link with front-line farmer groups, directly funding farmer initiatives and supporting the global effort to address climate change on the farm. Industrial agriculture and food production is a major contributor to climate change, and […]

Fair Cities

cities_minnesota

    What will the just economy of the future look like? We asked for your suggestions for cities across North America that are living examples of fair trade values in action. Is yours on the list? MINNEAPOLIS/ST PAUL, Minnesota Minneapolis-St. Paul is a hotbed of fair trade activity. For decades now, local nonprofits like the […]

It’s Time for Wages With Dignity

timeforwage02

by Ryan Johnson Quietly, hidden behind the headlines that feature presidential candidates bemoaning the state of our country and our economy, voters in several states are no longer waiting on politicians. They’re taking matters into their own hands and launching minimum wage ballot initiatives to create the economic change people sorely need. The impetus for […]

The Business Case for Raising the Minimum Wage

businesscase01

by David Bronner At Dr. Bronner’s, the company I run with my family, we believe that we can only prosper in the long run if we contribute to the prosperity of society as a whole. It’s why we strive to compensate all our staff fairly, cap executive compensation at five times the lowest paid position, […]