Food & Nutrition Service Takes Steps to Streamline SNAP Procedures for Farmers Markets

      Posted On: February 25, 2010

On February 24th, USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) headquarters issued a memo to all FNS Field Operations Directors throughout the United States, detailing new procedures for the implementation of scrip and incentive programs at farmers markets. Jeff Cohen, Director of the Benefits Redemption Division at FNS spelled out these new procedures for farmers markets SNAP retailers.

“In the interest of streamlining the implementation of farmers’ market scrip and bonus incentive projects, this memorandum removes State agencies from the approval process,” the memo states. Farmers markets will no longer be required to submit proposals or annual reports to operate scrip or bonus incentive projects unless as otherwise required by the funding organization.”

Farmers markets operating scrip or token programs with a wired or wireless central point-of-sale (POS) device must now inform their respective FNS Field Operations Office.  Similarly, markets intending implement a privately-funded incentive program to provide SNAP recipients with matching dollars for SNAP purchases must also inform the appropriate FNS Field Operations Office. Provided that a farmers market abides by all SNAP rules and regulations, no other reports will be required.

State SNAP agencies will no longer be required to request a waiver from FNS to have farmers markets operate one of these demonstration projects in their state, approve farmers market proposals for such projects, or collect transaction of other data from farmers markets operating these projects.

The memo notes, however, that “state support for farmers market expansion is still welcome. States that have special funding available for farmers markets should provide information and a contact to the FNS Regional EBT Coordinator for referral.”

FNS Field Operations will be the primary contact for farmers markets interested in participating in SNAP and will have primary responsibility to provide them with all relevant information regarding scrip and incentive projects, as well as ensure that they are aware of the rules, regulations, and responsibilities association with such projects.

Similarly, EBT Coordinators in FNS Regional Offices are directed to assist in providing farmers markets with information about scrip and incentive projects, as well as keep FNS Field Operations up to date on funding available in their states for these projects.

FNS Field Operations and Regional Offices will be provided with handouts and other information by FNS headquarters in the comings weeks.

Farmers Market Coalition Executive Director Stacy Miller commented positively on the memo, saying “These steps truly indicate a willingness on the part of USDA to adapt their protocols in order to support the growth of farmers markets in the United States.  While there’s still a long way to go to increasing the rate of SNAP redemption at farmers markets even to 1% of all SNAP redemptions, these measures should help ease the burden to the small, community-based organizations dedicated to improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables for low-income consumers while ensuring the viability of local farmers”

Today, the Food and Nutrition Service launched a new web page for farmers markets interested in incorporating SNAP/EBT into their operations.