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Buying Fair Trade products ensures farmers get fair price

04/26/2007

To The Editor:

Agriculture has become a topic of debate for several years, particularly the genetic modification of foods to increase production and reduce the overall hunger of the people of the world. Reducing their hunger only solves a fraction of the world's issues.

These farmers are able to receive this food only if they have the money to buy it or produce it. Agriculture employs the majority of the people on the planet. If the small farms around the globe are not receiving fair prices for their products on the open market they struggle to meet their basic necessities for life or simply stay in production. Housing, education, and bettering their community for the next generation is impossible without adequate prices.

Many of the programs that help with economically struggling individuals around the world give them money indirectly through activities and organizations that try to better their lives. There is a more direct and effective solution to help pay more to them for their products. This gives them the money they deserve up front. This is accomplished through buying Fair Trade products which ensure that farmers are getting a fair price for the product that they produce. This assurance is due to the strict criteria that a producer must meet for it to bear the Fair Trade logo. The price gives them enough to survive and even set money aside to build schools and other "improving the local community projects."

Buying Fair Trade not only supports agricultural workers but environmental sustainability as well. Fair Trade qualifications ensure that environmental practices are well intended and are focused on future quality and enjoyment.

In many cases farmers are forced to leave farming and enter another line of work. In some cases these new occupations are detrimental to the environment. In South America farmers are losing money due to Free Trade. Trying to make a living they ride in modified gasoline tankers by the hundreds, all with one goal in mind, logging. Some of the world's most luscious forests are in the region where the ecosystem is already in danger of collapse. Due to lost wages in agriculture the work force of the loggers has increased exponentially. The new loggers are still in danger of losing their work once again to the Free Trade Market. Industrial logging companies pay the logger on average a price of about $30 per tree. The logging companies then reap up to $128,000 from the products made with the materials. A similar system to Fair Trade is The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) which monitors the sale and growth of timber. FSC certified wood products ensure through qualification criteria that the timber is grown environmentally friendly and adequate wage for the logger.

The impact FSC and Fair Trade is that companies and consumers must pay slightly more for their products. Companies can take part of the cost and only slightly lower their profit margins. Most consumers have the luxury to buy a product of elevated price. With these benefits, Fair Trade needs added exposure to make a difference. It needs to be in the mainstream media and mindset of the people. Europe has taken Fair Trade and FSC to national awareness. This is a path America should consider following, by making the products available in stores and educating the public. This will allow consumers to decide whether or not to support such practices that may make a difference in the quality of life around the world.

Lorne Nix

Waterbury Center

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