OAKLAND, Calif., (March 22, 2021) – Fair Trade USA – the leading certifier of fair trade products in North America – is honoring National Farmworker Awareness Week (March 25-31) and urging both consumers and businesses to support impacted farming communities by purchasing and sourcing Fair Trade Certified produce. As essential farmworkers continue to be directly affected by the ongoing health, social, and economic challenges brought on by COVID-19, Fair Trade USA strives to highlight the hard-working farmworkers to help facilitate greater awareness around the issues they face and the industry crisis.
The Farming Industry Crisis
Farmworkers are essential workers who provide food for our tables, power the economy and support our communities. There are 2.5 million farmworkers in the United States alone, of which 73% are immigrant and indigenous workers, who are often not guaranteed fundamental health and safety protections, safe working conditions, access to healthcare and sick leave, rest and meal breaks, and safe housing. Farmworkers produce over 70% of the world's food supply yet control 19% (less than 1/5) of the world's agricultural land. Despite their importance, they are among the most economically disadvantaged working groups in the country.
Farmworkers are also often faced with unimaginable adversity: racial discrimination, gender discrimination, lack of control, unfair market conditions, predatory trade agreements, and seed laws. Yet, they continue to produce. The harsh reality is that the majority of the people growing the world’s food go hungry. Fair Trade USA has recognized these increasingly alarming issues and is dedicated to uplifting these hard-working farmworkers so they can build more sustainable livelihoods.
Furthermore, despite vaccines rolling out globally, essential workers and farmworkers continue to be directly affected by the global pandemic and work through difficult conditions to ensure that food is available. Because farmworkers often work, travel, and live in close quarters, they are at a much greater risk of contracting COVID-19. A recent Purdue University study estimates that more than 543,000 agricultural workers have contracted COVID-19 in the US alone. Additional surveys conducted by Fair Trade USA found the need for safer workplaces and the economic struggles felt this past year have been global.
Fair Trade USA mobilized an effort to mitigate the effects and provide a safety net to farmworkers. After surveying 85 farms, emergency funds were made immediately available for relief. One farm in the US used these fair trade funds to offer incentive pay to workers complying with social distancing and paid for more shuttle buses to transport them to and from their jobs, ensuring less crowding. Other farms used their relief funds to provide cash disbursements to those without work. All showcased the resiliency fair trade can provide in challenging times, which will be vital as farmworkers face the effects of the climate crisis and population growth.
Why Purchasing Fair Trade Certified Produce Matters
Fair Trade USA standards support the fundamental rights of farmworkers and raise the standard of working conditions, wages, and access to services like healthcare and safety training. Fair Trade Certified farms are audited and held accountable for fire safety, sanitary working and living conditions, and the use of protective equipment to prevent injuries, sicknesses, and pesticide exposure. Workers on Fair Trade Certified farms, not only receive higher income to invest in their communities, but also benefit from more than 100 protections and quality of life assurances and receive regular training around health, safety, quality assurance, and, as of late, COVID-19 prevention and relief. Fair Trade USA’s standards also help create safe working environments which, in turn, helps reduce labor turnover. In fact, fair trade mango growers in Mexico reported that their worker retention improved by 42% a year after certification.
For every Fair Trade Certified product sold, workers earn additional wages, delivered through Community Development Funds, which they can use for community improvement projects, including COVID-19 relief. To date, Fair Trade Certified produce and goods have generated more than $465 million in Community Development Funds 900,000 farmers and workers across 45 countries. When brands and consumers support fair trade, they are supporting them.
Seeking the Seal
The economic case for purchasing and sourcing Fair Trade Certified produce is also clear – 63% of current shoppers recognize the Fair Trade Certified seal, making it one of the most widely-known ethical labels in the US These informed and conscious shoppers see the value in fair trade produce and 72% are willing to pay more for it. Consumers spend a combined $300 billion per year on ethical products, a figure that is growing by 10% each year, and a third are more likely to buy a Fair Trade Certified product.
The Global Farmers Market, an online shop featuring Fair Trade USA’s partners and their produce, is an example of how Fair Trade USA showcases businesses and informs consumers to make the switch and commit to shopping fair trade.
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About Fair Trade USA
Fair Trade USA is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the leading certifier of fair trade products in North America. Its trusted Fair Trade Certified seal on a product signifies that it was made according to rigorous fair trade standards that promote sustainable livelihoods and safe working conditions, protection of the environment, and strong, transparent supply chains. Rather than creating dependency on aid, Fair Trade USA’s model empowers farmers, workers, and fishermen to fight poverty and earn additional money to improve their communities. Winner of Fast Company’s Social Enterprise of the Year Award and recognized as a leading social venture by the Clinton Global Initiative, the Skoll Foundation, and Ashoka, Fair Trade USA also helps brands and retailers tell their stories of impact and educate consumers about the power of their purchase. The Fair Trade Certified seal represents thousands of products, improving millions of lives, protecting land and waterways in 45 countries and counting. Purchases have sent $740 million to farmers and workers since 1998.
About National Farmworker Awareness Week
National Farmworker Awareness Week (March 25-31) is a week of action dedicated to honoring farmworkers’ contributions and raising community awareness around their working conditions. The goal is to bring attention to the multiple challenges and vulnerability that the large farmworker population faces, shed light on the important contributions farmworkers make to our daily lives and honor their role in our food system.