Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Bad things happen when good people do nothing

Dear Friends,
The letter below has been sent to The SCAA, The Pacific coast Coffee Association and The Roaster’ Guild. Additionally, Helen Nicholas and John Cossette have written their own letters to California Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Congresswomen Barbara Lee and President Bush.
Put simply—the USDA now wants every single organic coffee farm inspected annually. Up to now they have required 10-20% of the farms to be inspected. This action is a result of problems within the organic soy bean industry. This misguided and grossly unfair pending action amounts to throwing out the baby with the bath water. It will greatly harm at least a million of the smallest organic coffee farmers and possibly unwind fifteen years of progress made in organic coffee.
Please take a moment and write the SCAA and your elected representatives. Whether are not you buy organic coffee, this action is potentially disastrous for coffee growing farmers and friends around the world.
March 27, 2007
To: SCAA Board of Directors
Mr. Doug Welsh President of the Pacific Coast Coffee Association
Mr. Randy Layton Executive Vice President of the Pacific Coast Coffee Association
Mr. Paul Thornton President of the Roaster’s Guild

Just last week it came to our attention that the USDA NOP (National Organic Plan) in response to problems in the organic soy bean industry, is going to implement under existing law(Title 7 205.403) a requirement that 100% of all farms within a small farmer coop be inspected annually by independent certification agencies.

Currently these small farmer groups are assessed by internal control agents within the group. During annual inspections, 10-20% of the farms are inspected by the certification agencies. Given the number of small individual family farms (over a million word-wide?) and the low income levels of these farmers(under $1,000 per year), what this change in USDA procedure actually will accomplish is the exclusion of vast numbers small farmers world-wide from the U.S. organic specialty market.

Given a little careful reflection, I think this pending USDA action amounts to disastrous unintended consequences. As you know, small farmer groups are supplying the U.S. coffee industry with many great and interesting coffees from around the globe. From Timor, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Colombia, El Salvador and Mexico just to name a few.
The U.S. Coffee Industry and American consumer has benefited considerably from these certified small farmer groups. But the benefits of organic certification go far beyond providing us with coffee.
Organic certification is often a keystone around which communities can organize. In my personal experience I have seen health clinics built in Timor, schools in Colombia, improvements in crop yield and income, better environmental practices, access to micro-loans and pre-crop-financing throughout the coffee growing world---all as a result of organic certification.

These farmers are on a playing field that will never be level. As far as I know, this USDA action comes without any consultation or input from the coffee industry.

I think it is extremely important that the SCAA, the Pacific Coast Coffee Association and The Roaster’s Guild come out strongly in support of these small farmer groups and we oppose these pending changes to USDA law.

Best regards,

Robert Fulmer
Royal Coffee Inc.

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