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Ballston Spa supports Fair Trade effort

Schenectady Gazette, NY

If you get a cup of joe or pot of tea here, the village wants the people who picked the coffee beans or tea leaves thousands of miles away to have gotten a fair deal.

The Village Board is backing a campaign to declare Ballston Spa a “Fair Trade Town” by the standards of the international Fair Trade Towns movement.

“I think it’s truly the right thing to do. The principles and concepts of fair trade are admirable,” said Mayor John P. Romano.

The board passed a resolution Monday officially supporting fair trade, which seeks to ensure just compensation and fair practices in international trade with farmers and other trading partners in the developing world.

Fair trade certifications are applied most often to beverages and food grown in the developing world, including coffee, tea, chocolate and bananas, but fair trade standards can apply to any import.

The village would be the first community in the state to achieve the designation. To date, there are eight Fair Trade Towns in the United States, ranging from small but progressive towns like Amherst, Mass., to large cities like Milwaukee and San Francisco.

The designation has been promoted by Kim and Chris Anderson, who own Mango Tree Imports, a fair-trade shop selling imported goods on Route 50 just north of the village.

“We’re thrilled,” Kim Andersen said Tuesday, the day after the Village Board vote.

She said the effort is part of the growing fair-trade movement, which seeks fair compensation and sound environmental practices in production of many kinds of goods from the developing world.

“It’s really a quality of life issue for both the community and the farmers, producers and artisans in the developing world,” Andersen said.The Village Board resolution is just one of several steps needed before the Fair Trade Towns organization, started in Media, Pa., in 2006, will officially recognize the village, Andersen said.

Those steps include formation of a fair trade committee, which has already happened; the availability of fair trade products at businesses in the community; the use of fair trade products by community nonprofit organizations; a resolution from the local government; and media attention.

Andersen said most of the steps have already been achieved, but organizers are waiting for one more community nonprofit to declare its commitment to fair trade. They hope to have that by January.

“We still want one more community organization — like a church, for example — to say they will only deal in fair-trade coffee or tea,” Andersen said.

The fair-trade movement seeks greater equality in international trade, with fair prices paid to overseas workers, no exploitation of child labor and use of environmentally sustainable methods in producing products that can be fair-trade certified.

The Fair Trade Federation in Washington, D.C., says fair trade practices can help address the fact that 2.7 billion people in the developing world live on less than $2 a day. Fair trade sales in 2006 totaled $2.6 billion, it reported.

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