Comments are being sought on a new draft factory standard prepared by TransFair USA ahead of the US retail launch of its first Fair Trade certified apparel and home textiles products next spring.

According to TransFair USA, the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the US, two points of the supply chain - cut-and-sew workers and cotton farmers - will benefit from Fair Trade premiums for the first time.

US companies that source Fair Trade certified apparel will pay a percentage on top of the cost of the garment as a Fair Trade premium, which goes directly to factory workers who decide democratically how the funds are spent.

Additionally, cotton farmers will earn a guaranteed minimum price and Fair Trade premium to invest in community needs such as schools, health centres and infrastructure.

To ensure the supply chain is tracked from the farm to the finished product, TransFair USA and Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) will work together to audit processors (such as ginners and spinners) and certify cotton producers and cut-and-sew factories.

The new standard also extends strong labour protections based on International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions to garment workers in factories and sewing cooperatives.

"Consumers have become increasingly aware of humanitarian issues in the garment industry," says Paul Rice, president and CEO of TransFair USA.

"They want to make ethical choices but are faced with very few options.

"By wearing Fair Trade Certified garments, consumers will now have a voice in ensuring better factory working conditions and higher earnings for cotton farmers in countries like Mali, India and Peru."

The initiative builds on the success of Fair Trade at the farm level where Fair Trade certified products span more than 20 categories - from coffee, tea and cocoa to flowers, wine and even sports balls - and generated US sales of around $1.2bn in 2008.

The factory standard is open for a 45-day public review and comment period.