U.S. Rep. aims to rescue coffee growers through campaign

Daily Planet Wire Service
Saturday September 21, 2002


U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, on Wednesday derided what he calls the "pure corporate greed'' that causes large coffee buying companies to purchase coffee at prices that are lower than the cost of production. 

Farr claims the practice results in millions of Latin American growers and their families being forced to live lives of poverty. He was supported by political activist Bianca Jagger and Santa Cruz resident Nancy  


The congressman made his remarks Wednesday as the international relief agency Oxfam released a report showing that coffee prices are at a 100-year low in real terms. A glut of low-quality beans has left 25 million  

coffee farmers broke, banks have collapsed and malnutrition is on the rise among the farmers' children, the report found. 

"We've got a dire situation where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing,'' said Farr, who recently co-sponsored a congressional hearing on the coffee crisis in Latin America. 

"The U.S. government spends billions of dollars on economic and social development in Latin America while U.S. private industry undermines our foreign policy by buying cheap, low-quality coffee and ruining the lives and livelihoods of Latin American coffee farmers. 

"I will keep raising awareness on Capitol Hill about the coffee crisis and encouraging my colleagues to buy Fair Trade Coffee,'' he avowed. 

To become Fair Trade certified, an importer must meet stringent international criteria -- paying a minimum price per pound of $1.26, providing credit to farmers and providing technical assistance such as help  

transitioning to organic farming. 

Jagger pleaded with large U.S. coffee-buying companies to show more concern for the survival of coffee-growing countries. 

"Free trade is not Fair Trade, and Fair Trade is a matter of life and death,'' said Jagger, who was born and raised on Nicaragua. 

Abbey, a member of the U.S.-Cuba Sister Cities Association, is one of a group of Santa Cruz residents actively pursuing a relationship between both the city and county of Santa Cruz and the region of Santiago de Cuba. 

Abbey is a staunch supporter of lifting the trade and travel embargo to Cuba, according to Farr, and will travel with a delegation in January to strengthen ties with this region. 

"If we're ever going to be able to trade with Cuba, you can be sure our organization will support Fair Trade Coffee for its coffee growers.''