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Executive Summary

Executive Summary

Social Stewardship Standards for Farms, Ranches, and other Food and Agriculture Businesses (2019v4)

The Agricultural Justice Project bases these standards for fair trade and social justice in the food system on the Declaration of Human Rights, the conventions of the International Labor Organization and the experience of farmers, farmworkers, and other participants in the current food system in the United States and Canada.

The Agricultural Justice Project works to transform the existing agricultural system into one based on empowerment, justice and fairness for all who labor from farm to retail. Central to our mission are the principles that all humans deserve respect, the freedom to live with dignity and nurture community, and share responsibility for preserving the earth’s resources for future generations.

Farmer Rights #

The standards outlining farmers’ rights are based on the principle that all contracts between farmers and buyers will be fair and equitable. These standards ensure the following:

  • Good faith negotiations on any contract with a buyer, with payments to the farmer that cover the cost of production of the farm products plus a fair return on the farmer’s investment and a living wage for the farmer. Should the buyer not be able to afford to pay an adequate price, full disclosure of financial records would be required, as well as steady improvement as finances improve.
  • Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
  • Fair conflict resolution procedure.
  • Contract specifications such as recapture of capital investment, anti-discrimination clauses, prohibition of the termination of contracts without just cause, and profit-sharing incentives (if offered).

Farmworker and Food System Worker Rights #

The standards outlining workers’ rights are based on the principle that all workers have the right to safe working conditions, just treatment, and fair compensation. These standards ensure the following:

  • Adherence to international laws protecting workers, including ILO Conventions and UN Charters.
  • Freedom of association and right to collective bargaining.
  • Fair conflict resolution procedure.
  • Living wages.
  • Safe and adequate housing (when provided).
  • Health and safety protections, including access to adequate medical care and a “right to know” clause regarding use of potential toxins, with the expectation that the least toxic alternative is always used. We believe that the application of pesticides and the use of hazardous materials should be done according to the instructions on the label and according to the law and that training employees on the proper use and application of these products is required as part of an operation’s health and safety program. Every effort should also be made to limit exposure to natural hazards such as scalding by the sun, lightning and high winds, excessive cold or dust, etc.

Buyer Rights #

The standards outlining buyers’ rights are based on the principle that all contracts between farmers and buyers will be fair and equitable. The standards ensure the following:

  • Fairly negotiated and equitable contracts with farmers.
  • Buyers’ right to transparency of farmers’ costs of production for the purposes of determining fair prices.
  • Fair conflict resolution procedure.
  • Buyers’ right to require up-to-date farmer certification of all applicable products.

Farm Intern/Apprentice Rights #

In recognition of the vital role that interns/apprentices have played in organic and sustainable agriculture and the commitment of many farmers to training the next generation, the standards include a section devoted to interns. The standards are based on the fact that interns are inherently distinct from wage laborers, and therefore have distinct rights and responsibilities. These standards ensure the following:

  • A clear, mutually agreed-upon, written contract laying out the expectations and assuring the intern/apprentice that the farmer will provide the desired instruction.
  • A fair stipend to cover living expenses.
  • All other rights accorded to farm employees.

Indigenous Rights #

Most of the world’s farmers are indigenous peoples. An ecolabel that makes claims regarding social justice in agriculture needs to address their unique concerns. This section is under development as AJP actively seeks input from representatives of indigenous communities.

Incentives for Performance #

AJP’s certification program builds in incentives for consistent good performance according to these standards. Farms and businesses that are long term clients, who regularly meet all standards, consistently achieve continual improvement points, and have had no changes in their business or employment structure may be allowed to switch to bi-yearly in person inspections (that is, every other year). This practice is further explained in the AJP Policy Manual.