New York Pays to Keep Food Stamps at U.S. Farmers’ Markets

New York Pays to Keep Food Stamps at U.S. Farmers’ Markets

Winter Park Farmers' MarketOne month ago, farmers markets across the U.S. were poised to lose the software that allows them to swipe Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cards. New York State stepped in, financing the company whose contract was expiring July 31, allowing the system to remain in place nation wide through the end of the year.

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NY Governor Andrew Cuomo had previously strongly objected to the program ending and announced in early August NY’s plan to finance to system.

What will happen at that point is unclear. USDA has not officially commented on the contracts since its mid-July press release announcing the wireless software company, Novo Dia’s expiration and the end of the service.

The National Association of Farmers Markets Nutrition Program answers questions for farmers market operators in an August 2 release, which includes a comment that what will happen after January 2019 is still up in the air.

In 2017, SNAP benefits paid for $22.4 million worth of farmers’ market produce.

How Did This Happen?

Novo Dia says a couple of factors led to its original decision to suspend its service. The main one is that USDA awarded a contract to Financial Transaction Management (FTM), a new, fairly unknown company, to provide SNAP payment equipment to farmers’ markets. FTM does not provide wireless swiping software, however. USDA had previously given that contract to Farmers Market Coalition, which had subcontracted with Novo Dia.

Without a contract, Novo Dia said in mid July, the high operational costs involved with its wireless platform became unsustainable.

Despite that, it worked with New York State to keep the system going for another half year.

What’s Happening Across the Country?

New York’s move allowed at least states (Utah, West Virginia) to roll out programs to increase food stamp redemption at farmers markets by doubling and even tripling benefits.

On the less positive side, USDA has apparently instituted more stringent checks on producers. One California farmers’ market, Point Reyes Farmers Market, announced it would no longer accept food stamps due to new federal regulations requiring personal information on one of its providers.

“New standards under the United States Department of Agriculture require the market’s volunteer steering committee to provide the personal information, such as social security and driver’s license numbers, of one member,” Point Reyes Light Reporter Anna Guth wrote in her article on the topic.

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Southern Tier Farmer says:

This problem is NOT everywhere. Our market in WNY did not have this problem as we use a central terminal and not a smart phone which is what most markets were being pushed to use. I pointed out to NY market officials when they were talking of going to smart phones that someone would have to pay for the data for the transactions. The person said the State would cover the first year, after that it was up to the market. HA, as if markets have money to throw around for that.
Next, you have to wonder just how swampy this program is when you have an actual group whose purpose it is to keep food stamps going at farmers’ markets. The article said $22.4 million was spent on farmers produce. Really!?!? Out of how many billions? Sounds like a waste of time and resources. Contrary to what politicians say about farmers needing SNAP to survive, our farm can do just fine without it. It is just another burden we have had to endure to sell our product at markets. Let’s MAGA and get rid of this program.