August 20, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Reana Kovalcik
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Long-term Solutions Needed to Protect Vital Relationship Between Local Farmers, Farmers Markets, and SNAP Customers
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition issues statement on the future of SNAP at farmers markets
Washington, DC, August 20, 2018 – In early July, Novo Dia Group, a major provider of Electronic Benefit Technology (EBT) services for farmers markets, announced that it would be going out of business. This was a shock to the many families who rely on EBT benefits provided through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and also to the farmers who sell their products at farmers markets. Since that initial announcement, a number of temporary solutions have been put forward to ensure that farmers can continue to serve SNAP consumers at their local farmers markets. While the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is pleased to see that SNAP families’ access to fresh, local foods has been extended in the short-term, we are wary of the fact that temporary fixes leave farmers and hungry families vulnerable to similar shocks in the future.
In recognition of the vital and symbiotic relationship between local farmers, farmers markets, and SNAP/EBT customers and the need for long-term solutions to the current EBT crisis, NSAC has adopted the following statement:
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. NSAC’s vision of agriculture is one where a safe, nutritious, ample, and affordable food supply is produced by a legion of family farmers who make a decent living pursuing their trade, while protecting the environment, and contributing to the strength and stability of their communities.
Many of our member organizations represent farmers who sell their products directly to consumers at farmers markets, on-farm stands, through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangements and mobile markets. Others work for sustainable rural economic development, community health and wellness, equity and food system opportunity. We believe that farmers’ ability to serve low-income families is not just important for their bottom line but also critical to genuinely healthy food systems.
For many years and in most of the country the process of becoming authorized to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, getting equipment and processing transactions has been complex, confusing, time-consuming and expensive. Equipment and services have often been undependable and customer service spotty.
At the height of the farmers market season this summer hundreds of farmers markets across the country were thrown into turmoil by the announcement that Novo Dia Group (one company providing equipment and service) might cease operations, reneging on service contracts paid in advance and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). We believe that farmers and low-income shoppers should not be vulnerable to the vagaries of any single company’s business plan. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) free equipment program has been a welcome and appreciated help; but what we need is a permanent system that makes it easy and cost-free for farmers to serve SNAP households.
We believe that increased innovation and tech development, happening in close conjunction with USDA, can lead to more options and better service within the direct marketing sector. We invite companies, particularly those offering mobile credit and debit processing, to serve the growing mobile SNAP processing market in order to ensure that farmers and SNAP shoppers are able to come together to support each other’s needs.
In addition, we understand that states, including Mississippi, California, and South Carolina, have language in their state contracts to provide for no-cost wireless equipment for farmers markets and farmers who sell directly to consumers. California has had a system in place since 2009 that provides free, wireless SNAP-only Electronic Benefit Transfer equipment and service to all authorized farmers and markets in the state. Almost 600 California farmers markets use the equipment, serving thousands of SNAP households which spent $3,719,545 of their food dollars with these farm retailers in 2017 This represents almost 5 million servings of healthy, fresh, affordable locally grown food for these low-income families. These farmers and shoppers have been unaffected by the disruptions other states face and the system that works for them can be a model for the rest of the country. We encourage more states to follow these examples.
NSAC member organizations stand ready to work with State Departments of Agriculture, SNAP agencies, and State Legislatures to develop, share, strengthen and publicize long term, state based solutions that support markets, farmers, and SNAP shoppers.
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: https://sustainableagriculture.net