Complain all you want about Starbucks taking over the world—the company is at least trying to do some good in the process. The company announced plans last year to become the largest purchaser of Fair Trade coffee in the world. Now Starbucks has teamed up with the Fairtrade Labeling Organizations and TransFair USA to create the Small Farmer Sustainability Initiative (SFSI), a small-scale loan program designed to give coffee farmers increased market access, farm loans, technical assistance, and a coordinated audit system.
The three-year pilot program will begin in key coffee-growing regions in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Participating farmers will have access to the $12.5 million Starbucks has invested in farmer loan program. By 2015, the company hopes to increase its funding to $20 million. Coffee farmers—specifically, Starbucks coffee farmers—can use the cash. 85% of Starbucks coffee is grown on small family farms that will likely use the company's money to weather the current economic crisis.
So yes, Starbucks coffee is expensive. It's also produced by fairly compensated growers, and that's something that companies like Nestle, Folger's and Maxwell House can't claim.