States act fast to distribute wireless SNAP/EBT technology to farmers markets

      Posted On: July 19, 2012

In May 2012, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) announced additional funding of $4,054,000 to expand the availability of point of sale terminals to farmers markets that are not currently participating in SNAP.

FMC believes that facilitating federal nutrition program participants’ use of farmers markets achieves multiple USDA goals, as farmers markets can improve access to affordable, nutritious foods to low-income consumers in an environment that facilitates effective education and encourages long-term diet improvement for FNS program participants.  They provide a critical retail opportunity for thousands of small and medium-sized family farmers and ranchers, as well as entry-points for beginning, socially-disadvantaged, and non-traditional producers.  Investing a little extra to help farmers market retailers connect effectively with nutrition program participants will reap multiple dividends to achieve USDA’s publicly-stated performance measures, and has the potential to generate much deserved positive publicity for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Funds are distributed to states using an allocation formula based on the number of markets not accepting SNAP at present, as explained in a May 2nd memorandum to Regional SNAP and Field Operations Offices.  Allowable costs for the funds (covered at 100%) include the purchase or lease of wireless POS equipment and monthly wireless access fees associated with using that equipment.  “States may choose to provide wireless POS equipment that also accepts commercial credit and debit cards, without being required to cost-allocate the cost of equipment or its flat monthly service fees,” provided that markets themselves bear the cost of debit or credit transaction fees unrelated to SNAP wireless access.

Other details issued in this memo include a new requirement for each individual farmers market location to apply for and obtain a unique authorization number, even if managed by the same umbrella organization.  This means that if an umbrella organization is already SNAP-authorized but opens a new location, they will need to apply for a new authorization and are thus eligible for free wireless POS equipment from their state agency.

In addition, States will not be able to use their 2012 allocation for the distribution of POS SNAP technology to individual farms.

Because funds must be obligated to requesting markets by the states before September 30th, FNS established a July 15th deadline for the agencies to report back on the expected use of the funds, such that funds which are unlikely to be obligated by the deadline can be reallocated to other states with greater need.  The liquidation of such obligated funds can be completed after the close of the 2012 fiscal year, provided that they are obligated for eligible uses for specific, eligible markets.  State agencies with questions about specific obligation and liquidation requirements can contact Rogelio Carrasco, USDA FNS Farmers Market SNAP Coordinator, at 703-305-2673 or

Illinois was among the first states to announce the availability of wireless POS devices, a process expedited with the formation of a working group that includes representatives from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois Department of Human Services, Experimental Station, the Illinois Farmers’ Market Association, and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.  The application for markets to participate is made available along with an archived webinar with eligibility and participation requirements at Other states are racing to get the word out the farmers markets which are already in the swing of summer.

The Farmers Market Coalition has been communicating regularly with FNS staff, and been an active participant on a Farmers Market EBT Working Group which includes state SNAP agencies, FNS staff, EBT contractors, and some farmers market organizations.

Based on abundant feedback on 2012 allowable expenditures and fund distribution, FMC has crafted a series of recommendations to FNS with the goal of maximizing the return on investment from this critical program by expanding SNAP in farmers markets and giving them the tools to succeed.  The recommendations for 2013 and beyond cover the following eight topics:

1.    Specific SNAP Application for Farmers Markets
2.    Timing of Funding Announcement
3.    Requiring New Language in SNAP EBT RFP Proposals
4.    Allowance for Administrative Expenses that Support Partnerships
5.    Expansion of Definition of Allowable Expenses
6.    Support for All States’ Existing Farmers Market Models
7.    Expansion of Definition of Qualified Markets
8.    Consideration For Other Nutrition Programs

FMC members are being invited to sign on in support of this letter, which will be submitted to USDA FNS later this month.  Questions about these recommendations can be addressed to Jan Walters, FMC Policy Committee Chair, at