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Thank you very much for your questions and concerns. To answer your question about premiums--yes, all of the premiums are managed, voted on and used by the workers themselves. This is a requirement of the Fair Trade standards. As I mentioned in my previous comment, a large portion of Fair Trade tea, bananas and flowers already come from large farms or estates. Fair Trade has been very successful on these farms, and has made a tremendous difference in the lives of farm workers who do not own land and cannot form or join a cooperative.
On existing farms, as well as in our first coffee pilot, the workers vote on and elect a Fair Trade committee. That committee manages the premium fund. We currently have one farm certified under our new Draft Farm Workers Standard, a large 100% organic farm in Brazil called Fazenda Nossa Senhora de Fatima. The 110 workers there have democratically decided to use their first premiums to bring eye and dental care to the workers and their families. Some of the older workers received their very first pair of eye glasses a few weeks ago, and can see clearly for the first time in their lives.
If you have any additional questions about the standards, how they were developed, and how premium distribution works, I highly encourage you to read the standards on our website: http://fairtradeusa.org/certification/stan…. Our new standards are open for public comment, and we welcome and appreciate any feedback you may have.
Thank you for covering Fair Trade in ways that allow multiple voices to express their points of view and your readers to be better informed on the important debates currently happening within the movement.
According to the World Bank, more than 2 billion people live on less than two dollars a day. Today’s Fair Trade model reaches less than 1 percent of them. We can and must do more.
The Fair Trade movement is united by the idea that trade is the most sustainable way to alleviate poverty and improve lives for millions of farming families around the world. Fair Trade USA respects that there are many approaches to achieving our common mission, and believes healthy debate and experimentation are critical for expanding and strengthening the Fair Trade movement.
Last week Fair Trade USA held our annual Producer Forum at the Specialty Coffee Association of America convention. Here we brought together everyone from origin to shelf: members of over 100 small farmer cooperatives; farm workers from both flower estates and the first certified coffee estate; non-profit organizations who provide financing, business training and social programs to farming communities; and businesses who demonstrate their commitment to ethical sourcing through the sales of Fair Trade Certified products.
Together we discussed how we can implement Fair Trade for All in ways that strengthen cooperatives, include more farmers and workers, and engage consumers to increase impact to all farmers by growing demand for Fair Trade Certified products.
We also learned how people in the same family or community cannot all work for the cooperative and often seek employment at neighboring estates. These farmers want their children, neighbors and friends to have the same protections and benefits from Fair Trade as they themselves have experienced. They simply ask that as we experiment to include more people, we do so in ways that continue to strengthen their businesses. They were reassured by Fair Trade USA’s comprehensive cooperative development program (www.fairtradeusa.org/cooplink), which raised over $5MM in 2011 alone in programs to strengthen cooperatives and their communities.
As for the suggestion that Fair Trade cannot work for farm workers on large farms, Fair Trade USA, FLO and Equal Exchange, who all source tea from large Fair Trade Certified tea estates, have more than a decade of experience showing that Fair Trade provides real impact to farm workers. Fair Trade standards currently support both small-scale farmers and farm workers simultaneously in tea, flowers and bananas. As illustrated in Fair Trade USA’s 2011 Almanac (http://fairtradeusa.org/sites/default/file…), imports, sales, and premium funds earned by producers in each of these categories have experienced significant growth. On flower estates in Ecuador, workers have used their premiums to enable education for their children, pediatric care, cancer screening clinics, adult education (i.e. computer science) and micro-financing for home appliances. The breadth of these community development programs has benefitted the entire community, not just the workers on the farm.
To underscore the real impact of our programs for farm workers on large farms, here is what Maria Elvia Almachi, a worker at the Agrogana Flower Farm who attended SCAA, had to say:
“Working for a Fair Trade Certified farm has greatly improved my working and living conditions. I hope that our experience serves as a powerful example for the coffee industry.”
Building on this success, we are adapting existing Fair Trade standards and applying them, slowly and carefully, to farm workers and independent smallholders in coffee. Following best practices for setting standards, implementing a small number of pilots over the next two years, and following an appropriate review process to incorporate changes where necessary, we hope to begin increasing the reach and impact of Fair Trade over the next few years.
Fair Trade does not have to be about just cooperatives, or just estates, or just independent small farmers; there is an “and” here that so many have yet to explore. Whether you are lucky enough to own your own land and can join a cooperative, are a worker on a coffee estate, or have a small farm but cannot be part of a cooperative due to various cultural, geographic, financial or religious barriers, we believe everyone should have the opportunity to send their kids to school, access life-saving healthcare, earn a fair price for their hard work, and live a life of hope, pride and dignity.
Thank you for your time, interest and support of Fair Trade.
If anyone has additional questions please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
-Jenna Larson, Fair Trade USA
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