Monday, September 24, 2007

Fair Trade I never considered

Always before when the idea of fair trade would come up, thoughts of the poor hardworking South Americans or Africans slaving away to produce something would pop into my head. The idea that they would work so hard only to have more connected and educated land owners or middle men get all the profit was, and still is, appalling.
This weekend though, I was reading a magazine I like very much (there aren't many I don't like!) that is published in Britain. They have a new campaign going that is called Free Trade for British Farmers. Now why would they need free trade I thought as it caught my attention? Aren't they similar to us in that they get medical (better access than we do), good wages, paid vacation etc? Well yes. However this article and campaign is specifically addressing British Farmers that produce....drum roll please......milk!?!?

Ah hah! Now that you know the product it is easier to understand why they might need a bit more "fair trade". After reading the article and checking out the web site I thought that it was such a good idea that they should start it here in the U.S.
I know we have the "drink real/raw milk campaign" but what about a plain old "give a fair dollar to a small local farmer so they don't have to sell their milk to the large companies" campaign? Even if it's not raw and just plain ole grass fed and grown but maybe homogenized milk. Maybe not even certified organic---but maybe it is they just can't afford to pay the government the "blackmail price" of getting certified.
In Britain they are losing so many dairy farmers that they may have to import milk soon at this rate. GASP. Can you imagine importing our milk from overseas? China? Taiwan? It could happen here too though since a small local farmer who milks under 30 cows is as likely to fail because not only does the government over regulates how milk can and will be sold but most people don't want to spend 8 dollars a gallon to purchase it. Oh they say they will when it comes to the question of "would you buy it if.......fill in the blank with some humane objective." However---most won't. Of course maybe they are like me and hesitant to spend it in the grocery store because I know the big companies got government subsidies and the grocery store is taking a pretty large profit their selves. The farmer is getting barely a pittance of that price if I pay it. I would however pay a local guy that amount of money for his milk, especially if I could see his farm and pick it up fresh (hear the sound of fresh "cracking open"). Just try and find a farm to do that on though! The shrinking amount of small local dairy farms goes back to the article I send you too. The U.S is losing it's small farmers at an alarming rate----and we and our children are going to pay for it in the long run. (so sad--sigh)

Another point brought up in one of the other articles I read is about animal welfare. If we end up purchasing from overseas how do you know that the animals were treated well. Oh wait! We don't care about that either or else we would be raising our own meat or buying from a local grass fed producer not a CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) that sells to the large grocery chains, that gets government subsidies, that pollutes water and land and charges us a high dollar to sell to us.
So I guess in the end "fair trade" is just for some things like coffee and tea and as long as we get our every day staples for cheap cheap cheap the world is working correctly.

*By the way, when you check out the first link titled Fair Trade for British Farmers, click on the beef/lamb/dairy links at the bottom of the article for some other interesting "unfair" facts about these products.

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