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Bringing new life to fairness principles in organic agriculture - Update on the Agricultural Justice Project

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2016 May Issue Newsletter

By Elizabeth Henderson

AJP training for certifiers and worker organizations

When he heard that Green Star Natural Foods had been awarded Food Justice Certification, Joe Romano, Marketing Manager, exclaimed: “Green Star is thrilled to partner with the Agricultural Justice Program by receiving their Food Justice Certification. We are pleased not only to receive Food Justice Certification ourselves, but to promote the fair business practices it represents to our members, shoppers and to our community as a whole. Having a standard that ‘measures what matters’ ensures that workers and producers are fairly treated. This type of certification is long overdue, and we are happy to be one of the first of what will hopefully be many businesses committed to this kind of objective evaluation, so that ‘Food Justice for All’ becomes the standard for businesses, communities, and individuals.”

NOFA is a founding partner of the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP), a collaborative, non-profit initiative to create fairness and equity in our food system through social justice standards for organic and sustainable agriculture. Although fairness has been a basic principle in organic agriculture throughout the years, organic standards have focused on production practices for farming and processing. To bring attention to the importance of fair pricing for farm products that fully covers the cost of production and the need for respect and living wages for all jobs in the organic supply chain, AJP has developed a market-based food label for social justice and economic equity that is starting to appear on products in New York and other places throughout the country.

NOFA’s partners in AJP are Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI - USA), Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas/Farmworker Support Committee (CATA), and Florida Organic Growers/Quality Certification Services (FOG/QCS).

I feel that farmers who pay as much attention to the quality of life of their workers as they do to the quality of their soils are able to pay living wages. Through Food Justice Certification, customers are able to recognize, and reward these farms and the food businesses that pay decent prices and negotiate fair contracts.

Food Justice Certification ensures that there is a strong connection between environmental and social values. AJP standards cover the following:

  • Fair pricing for farmers
  • Workers' and farmers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining
  • Fair wages and benefits for workers
  • Fair and equitable contracts for farmers and buyers
  • Clear conflict resolution policies for farmers or food business owners/managers and workers
  • Workplace health and safety
  • Clean and safe farmworker housing
  • Learning contracts for interns and apprentices
  • No full-time child labor, but carefully supervised participation of children on farms

You will find the full standards, the policy manual, and a tool-kit with resources to help farms comply with the standards on the AJP website. For an application, visit the Quality Certification Services website.

The AJP process has earned positive evaluations from the Domestic Fair Trade Association (DFTA), and from Consumer Reports.

Many NOFA member farms and businesses meet the AJP standards – the Food Justice Certified label is a way to reward their good work in the marketplace.

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