The Illinois Farmers Market Technology Improvement Program Act

      Posted On: April 14, 2010

by David Rand

As the Farm Forager for the City of Chicago and the Green City Market (and a new FMC Director), I have been working on the issue of EBT acceptance at Farmers Markets in Chicago since I began my position in May of 2009. Through my discussions with these two organizations on how to get all of the Chicago Farmers Markets to accept SNAP benefits, an idea was born.

The State of Illinois is close to adopting a landmark piece of legislation called the Farmers Market Technology Improvement Program Act.  The draft was developed out of conversations between the Chicago Mayor’s Office of Special Events, which manages 22 Farmers Markets across the City, and the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, a local agency dedicated to helping the underserved in Chicago achieve better food access. Not only are they working to get the City of Chicago on board with SNAP acceptance at farmers Markets, but by drafting a piece of legislation for the State of Illinois, the hope is that the over 300 Farmers Markets throughout the State will one day have the support they need to accept SNAP.

On March 4, 2010, the act—HB 4756—was passed by the Illinois House of Representatives, and moved to the floor of the Senate with 30 co-sponsors. Under the directives of the act, the Illinois Department of Human Services and Department of Agriculture will implement a program “to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other LINK eligible food products, including quality meat and dairy, for all Illinois residents by allowing LINK program participants to redeem their SNAP benefits at farmers markets.” (State of Illinois, 96th General Assembly, 2010)

As part of this program, a Farmers Market Technology Improvement Fund will be established in the state treasury for the implementation of the program, and will be used for:

  • The purchase or rental of wireless point of sale terminals capable of processing SNAP benefits disbursed under the LINK program.
  • Monthly or transaction fees associated with LINK card transactions. No fees related to credit or debit transactions will be reimbursed.
  • Outreach to LINK program participants.

The bill focuses on inclusive language that will open funds up to “non-traditional fresh food markets.” By using this type of language, the funds will not be restricted to farmers markets, but can also support other alternative models of distribution such as roadside farm stands, mobile farmers markets, farm-fresh food kiosks, home delivery, and urban farm stands.  This is a very exciting time for farmers markets around the country, and through legislation such as the Farmers Market Technology Improvement Program Act we hope that other states will follow suit and help to improve access to fresh, healthy, locally grown food.

The Farmers Market Technology Improvement Program Act is one of several state initiatives currently being identified in FMC’s Farmers Market SNAP Research Project, the full report of which will be published later this spring.  For questions regarding this Illinois bill or other things going on in Chicago Farmers Markets, please contact David Rand via email at