Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee

An alternative to organic coffee certification is for a grower to be Rainforest Alliance certified. The Rainforest Alliance is a non-governmental organization that works to conserve biodiversity. It does so for agricultural products by influencing consumers to buy what is good for the environment and good for small farmers. Rainforest Alliance certified means that the coffee that you buy was produced using good land use practices. Rainforest Alliance certified coffee is part of a broader sustainable agriculture program of  tropical crops, including coffee, bananas, cocoa, oranges, cut flowers, ferns, and tea. Certified coffee farms meet a strict set of environmental standards that include preservation of the ecosystem and reduction in use of synthetic chemicals of all sorts. In addition, strict health and safety requirements are part of getting Rainforest Alliance certified. The Rainforest Alliance works with the Sustainable Agriculture Network which is a group that includes conservation organizations in nine countries in Latin America. These organizations work to increase and maintain sustainable agricultural practices. On the other end of the coffee spectrum Rainforest Alliance works to convince consumers and to buy Rainforest certified products and works to have businesses buy from certified farmers and sell to the public.

Criteria to Become Rainforest Alliance Certified

The process of getting certified by Rainforest Alliance is similar to getting UTZ Certified. Growers start by achieving partial success and grow into the eventual requirements. Rainforest Alliance requires that coffee growers meet half of the criteria for any given area of concern to start with and meet eighty percent of requirements overall. These criteria include ecosystem preservation, safety of wild animals, watershed conservation, fair hiring and labor practices, appropriate safety measures for workers, and strict adherence to agrochemical use standards. An additional feature of this program is the prohibition of genetically modified crops.

Does Rainforest Alliance Certified Mean That Your Coffee is Organic Coffee?

To the extent that Rainforest Alliance certified means that your coffee was grown according to organic farming practices, yes, this is typically healthy organic coffee. However, organic coffee certification by the USDA is too expensive for many growers and they forego the process even while they produce organic coffee year after year. It is an all too common story throughout Central America and the coffee growing regions of Colombia that a grower pays his $500 a year to get Bio Latina organic coffee certification or certification by another agency on behalf of the USDA. The grower passes inspection and pays his dues every year. He does not change his farming practices as he has always produced organic coffee. However, he does not get any new buyers and he does not get any new buyers who pay more because his product now has organic certification. After a few years he quits paying the $500 a year as the extra expense was not a reasonable investment. Such a coffee farmer may well chose to be Rainforest Alliance certified or UTZ certified as in each case he believes that the certifying agency is helping him connect to the market for organic coffee and helping him sell his organic product at a price consistent with its increased value as organic coffee.

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