Coffee Companies Debate Fair Trade Changes

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Two stalwarts in the fair-trade coffee movement are debating a move by a national certifying organization to expand beyond small, farmer-owned cooperatives and allow larger growers to sell their product with a fair trade label.

Equal Exchange in West Bridgewater, Mass., took out a full-page ad Sunday in The Burlington Free Press calling on Waterbury-based Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to sever relations with Fair Trade USA. Green Mountain deals with the co-ops.

Equal Exchange spokesman Rodney North says allowing large growers to use the fair trade label will squeeze out the co-ops.

Fair Trade USA President and CEO Paul Rice says expanding the market for fair trade products will help all farmers.

Green Mountain says it’s taking a wait-and-see approach, but wants to be sure farmer co-ops are protected.

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