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coffee Certifications by james spano

As consumers are becoming more conscious about the products they are purchasing, organizations have sought to help us be informed about our buying decisions. Coffee is at the forefront of this movement with a number of certifying bodies with their own accompanying labels—but what good is a label if you don’t know what it means?

Working conditions are also monitored. Laborers on FT farms are allowed freedom of association, safe working conditions and sustainable wages. Forced labor of any kind is prohibited. Portions of premiums received for having this certification must be invested in community projects, which are determined democratically by members of the farming organization.

Let’s take a look at the three largest certifying bodies related to coffee, and see what they mean to the farmer, the consumer and the environment.

Farmers receive a minimum floor price per every pound of coffee sold. An additional premium is added on top of this minimum if the coffee is certified organic. By creating cooperative settings where all farmers follow the same standards, every farmer is rewarded for following the best environmental and humanitarian practices.

Fair Trade This certification is probably best known in its relation to the coffee industry. During the 2007-8 growing season, approximately 450 million pounds of coffee were certified Fair Trade! Fair Trade (FT) is designed to help small-scale farmers who might not otherwise have a chance to compete in the larger coffee market. By creating alliances with other small farmers, growers are able to demand sustainable prices for their coffee without being edged out by larger conglomerates. Additionally, social and environmental improvements to the local communities (many of which are rural and poor) are integrated into the certification process. Fair Trade USA is the certifying entity for FT products in the United States. Farmers interested in achieving FT certification must adhere to a number of rules. First, environmental practices must be strictly followed. These include protecting water resources and natural vegetation areas, promoting erosion control and plant diversification in the farm area, restricting the use of pesticides, and promoting management of waste, water and energy. 68

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There are some misconceptions about what FT includes and how it works. It’s important to understand that FT certification is only designed for small farms that are a part of FT cooperatives. A farm can follow all the described practices above but not be certified FT because it’s too large or is not connected with a co-op of farmers. This means that if a farm does extremely well as part of a FT co-op and decides to grow and branch off on its own apart from the co-op, it cannot take the FT certification with it. Another important thing to understand is that Fair Trade does not mean organic. As mentioned above, FT farmers can achieve organic certification and receive an additional premium for it, but it is not a requirement. About half of FT coffee farms are certified organic while the rest follow the required minimum sustainable practices.

Rainforest Alliance Rainforest Alliance (RA) is another certification that had been gaining in popularity in the field of coffee. RA certification focuses on biodiversity, encouraging farmers to move away from a “monoculture” farming style

Well FED Savannah April 2011  

Feed. Eat. Drink. The area's largest food, dining, and healthy living magazine with the most comprehensive dining and bar guide.

Well FED Savannah April 2011  

Feed. Eat. Drink. The area's largest food, dining, and healthy living magazine with the most comprehensive dining and bar guide.

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