Fair trade purists cry foul at including big farms

A recent open letter to Vermont's Green Mountain Coffee Roasters asking it to sever relations with the group Fair Trade USA is just one sign of a broader debate roiling the fair trade movement.

The two largest marketers of fair trade coffee in the United States both say they'll stay with Fair Trade USA. That group certifies that coffee and other products are meeting fair trade standards, for now.

But Massachusetts-based Equal Exchange and the Vermont Coffee Company are among other companies breaking ties with Fair Trade USA over what they see as a weakening of its standards.

One main complaint of theirs is that the California-based Fair Trade USA is moving beyond the small farmer cooperatives historically at the core of the free trade movement to include larger, plantation-based coffee growers.