May 30, 2008, Newsletter Issue #162: Coffee Crisis Fuels Fair Trade In U.S.

Tip of the Week

Fair Trade started in Europe in 1940s with faith-based groups that bought crafts and food products from refugees and sold them in communities. However, Fair Trade as we know it today has its roots in America in 1986.

A coffee crisis was sending small-scale farmers into debt, and many were plunging into poverty. In response to this, Equal Exchange, a Massachusetts-based worker coop, brought the first Fair Trade coffee into the United States.

Fair Trade certification began in 1988, in the Netherlands, setting coffee industry standards for certification. Other nations operated according to their own standards. But in 1997 the Fairtrade Labeling Organization was born, creating an international set of Fair Trade standards.

The next year, TransFair was created. It is a non-profit organization and one of 20 members of the Fairtrade Labeling Organization that sets Fair Trade Standards. TransFair’s audit system tracks products from the farm to the product to verify that they comply with Fair Trade criteria. It also allows U.S. companies to display the Fair Trade Certified label on products that meet criteria.

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