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Cari,I've worked in the Fair Trade, organic coffee co-operative(for http://www.EqualExchange.coop) for 15 years and think this is a pretty good summation (especially given the little space you had to work with) but I've a few corrections and extra resources to offer.
* There are now TWO Fair Trade certifiers. The 2nd one is IMO (see http://www.equalexchange.coop/which-g... )
* While you're right that the Fair Trade Federation does not certify specific products their standards are strict and meaningful. It is difficult for a company to become a Federation member unless they're truly committed to importing coffee (& other items) on Fair Trade terms. And tho' we at Equal Exchange are Federation members we don't happen to use the Federation logo ourselves. Yet some of our competitors (like Cafe Campesino) do and we think its a label shoppers can rely on.
* It is often said that "Direct Traders pay X% more than Fair Trade", but it'd more accurate and useful to say "Direct Traders pay X% more than the mandated Fair Trade FLOOR prices". This matters as when the global coffee market is up (as it has been this year) Fair Trader importers ALSO pay X% more than the Fair Trade floor prices. So Direct Traders are not in fact paying more than Fair Traders.
* A group of coffee importers has put out a useful comparison of the different ethical/eco labels see http://coopcoffees.com/all_news/media...
* There are many books and studies that document the significant benefits delivered by Fair Trade - see http://www.fairtrade-institute.org/db...