February Policy Round Up
By: Ben Feldman, Executive Director Posted On: February 17, 2021
Farmers Market Coalition recently helped to lead a sign-on letter to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture regarding a very concerning change to the Request for Applications for the current round of funding through the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program. The language in question reads: “GusNIP allows the use of incentives only for qualifying fruits and vegetables. Incentives cannot be used for purchase or redemption of any other SNAP eligible food.” Previously, incentives could be earned for any SNAP eligible purchase, not just produce.
While this may appear to be a minor change, it’s potential impact is major. Effectively, the change would prevent nearly all farmers markets from participating in the GusNIP program going forward. In most markets customers using SNAP do the transaction with the market operator and get their tokens through the market, so it’s not possible to know how much of it will be used for fruit and vegetables. If the program only allows customers to earn produce incentives on produce purchases, it effectively breaks the model at farmers markets. While the change is deeply concerning, FMC and our partners have been in contact with the USDA and members of Congress and we expect a resolution on the issue soon. For more details on the change, you can read the sign-on letter here.
FMC Executive Director, Ben Feldman, recently attended the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s first ever virtual Winter Meeting. With the change in the administration, the adoption of NSAC 2021 policy priorities and the passage of both the latest COVID stimulus package and the Appropriations Bill, there was a great deal to talk about. Time was also provided for racial affinity caucusing and some casual networking opportunities. It is notable that the NSAC 2021 policy priorities include many of FMC’s priorities as well. These include ongoing pandemic relief efforts, work on and other local food efforts at the administrative level, funding for the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program and beginning to prepare for the 2023 Farm Bill. A particular focus for both NSAC and FMC on each of these priorities is the impact on racial equity.