Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call notes that some US congressmen, led by Sherrod Brown (D-OH), have been demanding that the House of Representatives’ in-house catering service offer “fair trade” coffee. Despite cackles from some Republicans, the House Guest Services department agreed on Friday, saying that it would serve the eco-friendly coffee one day per week, but in only one of the three House office buildings.
So-called “fair trade” coffee, which is produced by growers who pay their Third-World workers above-market rates, has become a marketing tool for anti-globalists who trade in commodities and guilt-trips. Most of the movement can be traced back to a Minnesota nanny group called the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), run by professional activist Mark Ritchie. IATP’s officers own their own for-profit “fair-trade” company (Peace Coffee, which operates out of IATP’s home address). The organization also had a hand in setting up TransFair USA, which, not coincidentally, offers the only widely-recognized seal of approval for the overpriced beans. IATP is undoubtedly reaping financial benefits from the situation, which makes us wonder how frequently its policy positions are actually motivated by dollar signs.