Legislation Update on SNAP in Farmers Markets

      Posted On: October 13, 2010

Within a hair’s breadth of the start of the 2011 fiscal year (October 1), Congress passed a continuing resolution to extend 2010 federal spending levels through a continuing resolution that was signed by the President on September 30th.  The continuing resolution funds federal programs at FY 2010 levels until December 3, 2010, when, after the mid-term elections, when a ‘lame duck’ congress will return to Washington to either pass new FY 2011 appropriations bills or another continuing resolution.

In addition to many important long-standing USDA programs like the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program and other conservation initiatives, at stake in the proposed FY 2011 USDA budget is a small but potentially ground-breaking provision in the Food and Nutrition Service budget that would allocate $4 million to “provide point of sale terminals to all farmers’ markets nationally that cannot currently redeem SNAP benefits. Ensuring farmers’ markets have point of sales devices will substantially increase the redemption of SNAP benefits at these outlets. Nutrition education continues to be a key part of the SNAP to help low-income households improve their nutrition levels.” As evidenced in ‘Real Food, Real Choice: Connecting SNAP Recipients with Farmers Markets,’ it’s clear that technological barriers are not the end of the story. Nevertheless, this small investment could mean a significant increase in SNAP redemption at farmers markets.

Later in the summer, the House Agriculture Appropriations Sub-Committee submitted a budget mark-up that left this provision intact.  However, the Senate’s equivalent mark-up apparently left some red ink in that portion of the proposed budget.  FMC has responded by sending letters to the chairs and ranking minority members of both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, urging “support for this $4 million provision for SNAP/EBT infrastructure at farmers markets, with least 15% of this amount to 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.”  With continued education about the challenges faced by farmers market organizations in successfully implementing EBT and attracting SNAP shoppers, FMC members still have an opportunity to encourage their legislators to keep the $4 million provision when the FY 2011 budget is finalized in conference committee later this year.

This fall, FMC urges its members to keep this SNAP at farmers markets on the table by contacting their legislators in the House and Senate, or calling the House Appropriations Committee (202-225-2771) and the Senate Appropriations Committee at (202-224-7363) to tell them how important this would be for farmers and consumers in their communities.  When you call, please send us a quick note to let us know.

Members should stay tuned for a more detailed action alert later this month.

To view a copy of the letter sent by FMC to the Senate Appropriations Committee, click here.