FMC Comments on Proposed $4 Million Provision for Farmers Market SNAP

      Posted On: February 18, 2010

February 18 — Today, the Farmers Market Coalition submitted a letter to the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies regarding a provision in the President’s proposed 2011 USDA budget that would provide $4 million to equip farmers markets with wireless point of sale devices to serve SNAP customers. See the letter below.  Comments on any part of the proposed 2011 USDA budget can be sent to the Ag Committee using the following guidelines, no later than March 19th, 2010.

Dear Chairwoman DeLauro and Ranking Member Kingston:

The Administration’s 2011 budget requests $4 million for the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to “provide point of sale terminals to all farmers’ markets nationally that cannot currently redeem SNAP benefits.” As the budget request states, ensuring farmers markets have point of sales devices will substantially increase the redemption of SNAP benefits at these outlets.  In 2009, only .07% of all SNAP sales (in dollars) occurred at the fewer than 1,000 farmers markets currently accepting it.  We know that we as a nation can do better. We agree with the President that “Nutrition education and human resource capacity to continue to be a key part of the SNAP to help low income households improve their nutrition levels.”

This request is important and timely. In support of this initiative, the Farmers Market Coalition is undertaking a comprehensive study to develop policy and program implementation recommendations for expanding and sustaining EBT usage at farmers markets in the United States. The report of this study will be published in June.  In the course of this research, it has become increasingly clear that the successful implementation of SNAP at farmers markets requires far more than the provision of wireless point of sale devices.  Technical assistance for new markets to implement programs and funding for existing markets to do the required outreach, recordkeeping, and evaluation are needed most.  This is the missing link that could dramatically increase the rate of SNAP redemption at farmers markets.

We strongly encourage you to support this $4 million provision for wireless point of sale devices for EBT transactions at farmers markets.  However, we firmly believe that this funding should be available to support inter-agency collaborations between SNAP agencies, state farmers market associations, and other on the ground partners to first identify markets which would benefit the most from SNAP implementation. Additionally, at least 15% of this amount should be allocated to technical assistance provided by a network of experienced farmers market practitioners on the ground who can help ensure that SNAP does not become an added burden to these small, community-based organizations. A portion of this technical assistance funding should also be available to existing farmers markets that redeem SNAP but want to increase their rate of redemption and need funds for outreach, staffing and recordkeeping.  We also urge you to ensure that state SNAP agencies cover the variable and fixed costs associated with EBT transactions, as is the case already in California and Iowa.

This proposed provision is one small-step in the federal budget, but a giant leap for the long-term ability of farmers markets to dramatically improve health in the neighborhoods that need it most.  As you consider the President’s budget request for 2011, we would be happy to talk with you further about the ways in which we as a nation can support the growth and long-term sustainability of farmers markets for the benefit of farmers, consumers, and communities.