Admit it. You feel pretty good when you drink your fair-trade coffee. Smug, even. As you inhale the rich aroma from that bag of beans, you know that your $12 helped to pay the farmers a fair price for their labor — and helped build a school in El Salvador, create a women’s leadership program in Guatemala or provide tsunami relief to Sumatrans.

Which is why Massachusetts-based Equal Exchange, a pioneer of the fair-trade concept, is betting you’ll feel good — maybe even better — as you dip into a snack bag of organic California almonds, Georgia pecans or Cape Cod Wisconsin cranberries. The products, the first to be developed by a coalition called the Domestic Free Trade Working Group, hit Washington area shelves this month (see box below for locations). The products come from family farms or small co-ops, which are paid a price that both buyer and seller deem fair and that is typically higher than the cheapest available. Every pack has a unique “best by” date that customers can plug into a Web site to track where their snack came from.

“For 20 years we’ve focused on the developing world. But the challenges faced by small farmers and family farms in the United States are not that different than the ones the farmers face overseas,” said Erbin Crowell, Equal Exchange’s domestic fair trade program manager. Like coffee and cacao farmers in Central America, small American farmers often get paid less than what it costs them to produce their products.

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