TransFair USA announced today [Friday] that Republican Pete Stark has introduced a House Resolution expressing the sense of Congress that all branches of the Federal Government should limit purchases of coffee to that which is Fair Trade Certified.

    The Fair Trade Certified label is a guarantee that farmers:

  • Receive a fair price for their harvest -- A minimum of $1.26 per pound (US$1.41 for Organic Certified);
  • Have access to credit and direct access to American markets, cutting out exploitative middlemen;
  • Benefit from cooperative programmes supporting social and commercial development

Currently, many coffee farmers receive as little as 20 cents per pound of coffee, well below their cost of production. The substantial difference between 20 cents and the Fair Trade price of US$1.26 per pound often represents the road out of desperate poverty, said TransFair. It enables farmers to keep children in school, feed their families, improve healthcare and housing and invest in improving the quality of their coffee. Environmentally, an estimated 85% of Fair Trade Certified coffee in the US is also Certified Organic and most is grown under the canopy of bird-friendly shade trees, protecting wildlife habitats and the soil. Fair Trade Certified Coffee, currently sourced from 22 different countries, means quality -- for coffee drinkers, farmers and the environment.

"It is only fair that the farmers that grow the beans that supply the world's booming coffee market be able to share in the profits they've rightly earned," Stark said. "Its an atrocity that so many small farmers are being ripped off by corrupt coffee brokers and forced to live in poverty."

Stark's Resolution states, "In the context of the global economy, consumer choices affect communities and the environment throughout the world." Based on the 2001 National Coffee Association study, American coffee drinkers have the largest opportunity to affect these changes. It shows that 80% of adults in the US drink coffee, making us the world's largest coffee consuming nation. Our country drinks an estimated 20% of the world's coffee [...] more than half of this is grown by small family farmers in the tropical regions of Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
"Fair Trade Certification is a market-based solution, allowing coffee drinkers to affect change on critical global issues such as immigration, starvation, drug trade and the environment. An act as simple as buying an equally priced coffee from any of 10,000 retail locations gives hundreds of thousands of farming families the critical resources they need to bootstrap their way out of poverty," says Kenya Lewis of TransFair USA.

Stark concludes, "If America truly wishes to be a protector of freedom and human rights around the globe, we cannot turn a blind eye to the greed that is denying economic opportunity to millions of poor farmers. It is time we stood up for our values and put corrupt coffee suppliers out of business. I hope passage of this resolution will be one small step in that direction."