Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems

Research Papers

Consumer willingness to pay for domestic ‘fair trade’: Evidence from the United States

P.H. Howarda1 c1 and P. Allena2

a1 Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.

a2 Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA.


The success of fair trade labels for food products imported from the Global South has attracted interest from producers and activists in the Global North. Efforts are under way to develop domestic versions of fair trade in regions that include the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Fair trade, which is based on price premiums to support agricultural producers and workers in the Global South, has enjoyed tremendous sales growth in the past decade. Will consumers also pay a price premium to improve the conditions of those engaged in agriculture closer to home? To address this question, consumer willingness to pay for food embodying a living wage and safe working conditions for farmworkers was assessed with a national survey in the United States. The question format was a discrete choice (yes/no) response to one of four randomly selected price premiums, as applied to a hypothetical example of a pint of strawberries. Multilevel regression models indicated that respondents were willing to pay a median of 68% more for these criteria, with frequent organic consumers and those who consider the environment when making purchases most willing to pay higher amounts. Although the results should be interpreted with caution, given the well-known gap between expressed attitudes and actual behaviors, we conclude that there is a strong potential market opportunity for domestic fair trade.

(Accepted March 20 2008)

(Online publication June 30 2008)

Key Words:

  • fair trade;
  • domestic;
  • willingness to pay;
  • consumers;
  • ecolabels


c1 Corresponding author: