New York SNAP Beneficiaries May Lose Access to Produce at Farmers Markets

Image source: USDA/Flickr

Millions of Americans, including New Yorkers, receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture could face a problem.

Next month, SNAP (also known as food stamp) beneficiaries in New York and other states may lose access to products at farmers markets. Novo Dia Group, a company that supplies mobile electronic benefits transfer (EBT) equipment at farmers markets, will stop its service by July 31.

As a result, around 1,700 farmers markets, including 243 sites in New York, will be affected by the shutdown. Novo Dia’s decision was prompted by USDA’s new plan that does not include the company.

SNAP Transaction Disruption at Farmers Markets Seems Inevitable

Two months ago, the USDA awarded a new contract to Financial Transaction Management (FTM) to provide SNAP transaction processing equipment. The company will start accepting applications for its equipment today. However, it will take the company several weeks to approve applications and distribute the equipment.

In other words, there will be a disruption of SNAP transactions at farmers markets nationwide. The problem seems inevitable, since FTM will not be able to distribute its equipment to all farmers markets immediately.

Ben Feldman, policy director for the Farmers Market Coalition, told The Washington Post, “The loss of the Novo Dia’s platform is a huge step back for our industry. Farmers markets have been at the forefront of innovative efforts to support healthy food access among low-income shoppers while increasing farmer prosperity. This situation highlights the need for a long-term, reliable, affordable solution for the redemption of SNAP and other forms of electronic payments at farmers markets.”

Gov. Cuomo Slams USDA

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized the USDA following reports about the situation.

In a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, the governor noted that Novo Dia is shutting down its service “in the middle of the busy farmers market season.” The agency’s inaction to the problem will hurt thousands of SNAP beneficiaries, farmers and small businesses in the state.

“USDA’s failure to cultivate and approve mobile applications that allow access to farmers’ markets for SNAP recipients is incredibly reckless,” Cuomo wrote.

Additionally, the governor said the agency’s failure to maintain an EBT system for SNAP benefits is the worst of government ineptitude and a rejection of the USDA’s core principles.

Furthermore, Cuomo said the disruption of SNAP transactions at farmers markets is devastating for families. “We simply cannot let this happen,” he told Perdue.

Moreover, he encouraged the USDA to “fix this problem and provide a responsible solution that ensures no disruption” for SNAP beneficiaries and farmers markets.