Action Alert

Fair trade or free trade? Let your voice be heard on Minnesota’s future!

The Obama Administration is negotiating two new mega trade deals (one with Pacific Rim countries, another with Europe) entirely in secret, with the goal of further expanding the NAFTA-model of free trade. These trade agreements could have major impacts on Minnesota's farmers, workers, small business owners and rural communities. They could limit Minnesota’s ability to support local food and energy systems and grow local businesses. In order to stay up to speed, Minnesota has set up a new Trade Policy Advisory Council (TPAC) to advise the state legislature and Governor.

TPAC wants to hear from Minnesotans: What concerns do you have about free trade? What role could TPAC play in the future? Now is your opportunity to have a say in our future trade policy. Complete the survey and let them know future trade negotiations should be public, not secret. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the development of trade agreements and that they protect local control and our quality of life. The free trade model has failed for Minnesota and we need a new approach to trade. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard before trade agreements are completed, and that they protect local control, our natural resources and our quality of life.

Please take five minutes and complete the survey. To find out more about these trade agreements, go to

Put your money where your mug is: Finance the coffee you are drinking today...and tomorrow

Posted November 27, 2012 by    

AgricultureFair TradeSustainable Agriculture

 Farmers from the APECAFORM co-op in Guatemala.

The money in your mug. The nickel in your nip. The cashflow in your cup. What’s the connection and what does it have to do with you?

After oil, coffee is the world’s most traded commodity. Globally, over 25 million farmers grow coffee to support themselves and their families.  Many of these growers are very small, with a typical Fair Trade coffee farmer growing on less than eight acres of land. 

At the beginning of each growing season, farmers need to come up with the cash needed to run their farm as the coffee grows, to harvest it and get it to market. Like  farmers around the world, they have to finance these costs, as well as cover living expenses year round, even though they only harvest and get paid once a year.

Small-scale farmers have long struggled to access traditional financing. Lacking conventional collateral and access to fairly-priced loans they often have to borrow money from middle-men at exorbitant interest rates that cut into their profits and their ability to meet their families’ most basic needs.  Around the world, the annual demand for sustainable trade financing for farmers is estimated at $3 billion. The financing that is actually available to small growers is more like $300 million.

That’s where you come in.

Peace Coffee (which is owned by IATP) and a group of like-minded coffee roasters in the U.S. and Canada are exploring a new way for you to put your money where your mug is. In conjunction with the Grow Ahead Foundation, they are participating in a new model for social trade finance that connects coffee drinkers and others with the farmers who grow their coffee.

Here’s how it works: Individuals and organizations will make short-term loans of $25 or more to farmer cooperativesthat supply Cooperative Coffees, the entity through which Peace Coffee buys its beans. The funds will be lent to growers early in the year to help “pre-finance” the costs they incur over the growing season. 

One of the first farmer cooperatives to participate in this unique funding model is APECAFORM, a 400-member co-op in Guatemala. Money is currently being collected to pre-finance coffee that will be harvested in Fall 2013. Once the coffee has been sold and shipped to North America, the farmer association will repay the loans.

Those of us who make a loan can get our funds back at the end of the growing season (e.g., Fall 2013), use the funds to make another loan or turn it into a permanent donation. The loans made to the Grow Ahead fund will be secured through a $200,000 loan guarantee fund provided by the DOEN Foundation in the Netherlands where the Grow Ahead Foundation got its start. You can learn more about the details of the funding mechanism in the video below.

IATP has already made one of the first loans into the Grow Ahead crowd-funding program and we hope that you will join us. So put your money where your mug is!  Learn more at

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