Chobani announces partnership with Fair Trade USA; Fair World Project raises concerns, saying better worker-driven solutions exist

According to Chobani, the collaboration with Fair Trade USA detailed below was meant to create comprehensive standards for ensuring sound labor, environmental and animal welfare conditions on dairy farms.

Anna Canning of the Fair World Project argues that an enforceable, worker-driven approach to protecting workers’ rights in the dairy industry, along with partnering with organized workers’ groups, offer a better solution.

We invited Chobani and Fair Trade USA to respond to the Fair World Project commentary. Chobani indicated that they did not have anything further to share at this time, and sent a link to Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya's CNN piece. Fair Trade USA's response is linked below.

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Article
21 August 2019

Chobani Turns to Fair-Trade Program to Help Struggling Dairy Industry

Author: Michael Corkery, New York Times

2 July 2019

The yogurt maker Chobani is working with Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit group in Oakland, Calif., on creating a label that would signal that the milk in its products came from farms that treated their workers and cows humanely.

Chobani will pay a small premium for milk supplied by farms that agree to the Fair Trade USA vetting process, in which auditors periodically inspect the herd, interview workers and look at environmental issues like the containment of runoff.

Chobani’s fair-trade initiative — and likely marketing push — could help the company continue to stand out in an increasingly competitive yogurt market. Chobani says it believes the premium can help farmers hit by persistently low milk prices and highlight good practices in an industry that’s under enormous strain and scrutiny…

One potential complication: Many dairy farmworkers in the United States are immigrants from Central America, and a large number are believed to be undocumented. Mr. Ulukaya said he did not think that would make farmers in central New York and Idaho, the two states where the yogurt company draws its milk, reluctant to open up to the fair-trade auditors…

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Article
21 August 2019

There’s Nothing Fair About Fair Trade USA’s “Fair Trade Dairy”

Author: Anna Canning, Fair World Project

30 July 2019

Fair Trade USA has rolled out plans to pilot a fair trade dairy standard with Chobani on farms in New York State and Idaho. While there are numerous challenges facing the U.S. dairy industry, we believe that fair trade certification is the wrong solution, and that Fair Trade USA is the wrong organization to lead such a program. Fair Trade USA’s approach is particularly misguided because, in this situation, better solutions exist.  Thanks to a constitutional case brought by the Workers’ Center of Central New York and the Worker Justice Center of New York, farm and dairy workers in New York have won an historic victory enshrining the right to organize in state law. The Milk with Dignity program offers an enforceable, worker-driven approach to protecting workers’ rights in the dairy industry. If Chobani wants to get serious about protecting workers, they have models to follow, and organized workers’ groups to partner with…

...Worker-led solutions exist—and they are working. One of the recommendations of the Milked report was to create “a worker-driven and independently monitored social responsibility program for New York dairy farms,” including legally binding commitments for purchasers and third-party monitoring of standards set by worker organizations with “a mechanism for the monitoring body to enforce the resolution of complaints raised by workers.” The report cites the examples of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program and Migrant Justice’s Milk with Dignity program that emerged from worker organizing as successful Worker-Led Social Responsibility programs that are improving conditions for workers in their respective industries...

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Article
20 August 2019

Fair Trade USA response

Author: Fair Trade USA

"Fair Trade Puts People at the Forefront of Sustainability in the Dairy Sector with New Initiative"

...Fair Trade USA executes on this through the application of robust and credible social and economic standards that support farms, fisheries, and factories in a transition towards improved social welfare and environmental sustainability. Since 1998, producers in more than 45 countries have earned over $400 million in Community Development Funds through sales of Fair Trade Certified™ products, which they have used to address their communities’ greatest needs: these include clean water, education, healthcare, and environmental protection.  A cornerstone to this success has been Fair Trade USA’s Agricultural Production Standard (APS) for crop production, which was designed to be applied to a variety of crops and farm settings. 

Building upon the strong foundation of the APS, Fair Trade USA saw an opportunity apply its standard to US dairy farms to bring about positive impact...

Our initial focus will be on the human and social aspects, specifically, to working conditions and remuneration, representation, and access to service to improve health and well-being for farmers and workers. Over time, we will partner with other organizations to continuously improve upon the social aspects of the program and address other important issues related to animal welfare and environmental stewardship as we believe a multi-solution approach is best to drive holistic industry transformation...

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