Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) is inviting public comments through April 13 on its new draft standard for Independent Smallholders. The standard applies to smallholder producers who are not organized into cooperatives or associations. Thus far, “Fair Trade Certified” certification for most products has been open only to producer cooperatives and large farms.
The Independent Smallholder Standard allows such producers to access the Fair Trade market by working with a ‘Market Access Partner’ (e.g. an exporter, mill, processor, or NGO marketing organization) that holds the Fair Trade certificate on behalf of a group of independent smallholders and ensures that the standards are met. The smallholders qualify immediately for Fair Trade pricing and premiums, as well as from training provided by the Market Access Partner. Over time, the smallholders must form an independent association to negotiate pricing as a group, and they can eventually choose to create a cooperative-like organization and sell products directly.
FTUSA’s hope is that this new Independent Smallholder Standard will encompass many of the strengths of cooperatives, while allowing smallholders the time and capacity needed to decide if they want to form their own independent selling organizations. But FTUSA also wants to ensure that the market for products from existing Fair Trade Smallholder Organizations continues to grow, and to that aim FTUSA will be first testing this standard with only a limited number of setups in coffee and produce.
The public can read the draft standard and provide any feedback, directly to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 15, 2012. FTUSA intends to publish Version 1.0 of the Independent Smallholder Standard in the third quarter of 2012.