ChewsWise Blog

ChewsWise Blog

Coffee Organizers

The article I wrote in Salon, highlighting a recent USDA decision that raises costs severely for smaller organic growers in the Third World, has continued to gain attention. Several petition campaigns are going, including one on Equal Exchange, the organic and fair trade coffee company.

They have also posted several letters at their Web site explaining the issue, including this from a growers co-operative in Chiapas, Mexico.

From CIRSA in Mexico

We were very surprised to hear about US government’s decision [to disallow group organic certification]. Honestly, it will mean a huge challenge that we as small-scale producers will now have to face; precisely because our philosophy as small-scale producers is to work together in groups in an organized and just manner.

Individual certification would truly place an obstacle on group processes, on our way of working with the grassroots, on all our efforts to strengthen our organization. A system in which many would be forced to start to work in an individual fashion and to sustain themselves in this way would change our entire way of working.

We do not agree with these decisions or with the bias of the National Organic Program, which appears to lean towards strengthening the big farmers, the big estate and plantation owners and would only serve to make us, cooperatives of small scale producers, to make our lives more difficult and costly.

We wholeheartedly support Equal Exchange’s letter to NOP opposing this decision; we must add to and join more forces from the grassroots, from the organized communities to make the system work and to resist all these types of challenges, especially given the circumstances and governmental policies which currently prevail in your country and that each day are turning more and more into cumbersome and complicated decisions and laws.

… from the southeast of Mexico, the indigenous and marginalized communities of Chiapas, we send cordial greetings to the Equal Exchange team. May God continue to give us strength in our struggle.

Filiberto M.

The National Organic Coalition - an umbrella of various sustainable agriculture groups - was behind the letter and petition effort. On the following page, I am posting a link to their letter to the USDA, as well as links to more documents on this issue.

- Samuel Fromartz

For a copy of this letter with its attachments:

USDA/NOP Recent Decision: or go to the USDA website:

The NOSB - a citizens advisory panel to the USDA considered the matter of grower groups in 2002 and made a recommendation to the USDA - it was never acted upon. National Organic Standards Board 2002 Grower Group Recommendation:

More Information on the National Organic Coalition: