Fair Trade USA’s (FTUSA) label is showing up on fruits and vegetables in produce departments around the country. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily a step forward for farmworkers.
In Fair World Project’s recent report Justice in the Fields we evaluate seven different labels claiming to benefit farmworkers either domestically or internationally. We conclude that Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) is a program to “Approach With Caution”. We recommend four other labels ahead of FTUSA.
As we explain in our report, fair trade is a movement and a market descriptor that emerged out of the need for marginalized small-scale producers in the global south to organize and gain access to global markets. The application of the term “fair trade” to an ever-expanding scope of geographies and production settings is confusing and misleading to consumers who rely on it to identify products made by small-scale producers. This expansion of scope also threatens small-scale producers who suddenly find themselves competing against large-scale producers using the same term. These are real concerns that also led us to rate Fair Trade USA poorly as a farmworker justice label. This “Approach With Caution” warning applies equally to FTUSA’s more established work on medium- to large-scale farms in the Global South.