Maloney Asks USDA to Resolve Impending SNAP Processing Issue at Farmers Markets
WASHINGTON – Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) has sent a letter to United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asking him to immediately resolve an impending technology issue which would prevent Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries from using their benefits at nearly two thousand farmers markets across the country. One of the largest payment processors for the program, Novo Dia, has announced that it will stop offering the service by the end of July. Unless action is taken, the 1,700 farmers markets which rely on Novo Dia for payment processing could stop offering SNAP as a payment method and potentially leave tens of thousands of Americans without access to healthy, locally-sourced foods.
“We’ve got over 100 local farmers in the Hudson Valley who send their produce to farmers markers and literally thousands of SNAP recipients who get access to healthy food through the program – we can’t let this bureaucratic problem throw a wrench in the works,” said Rep. Maloney, a member of the House Committee on Agriculture. “No one is consciously pushing for the partnership between farmers and SNAP recipients to end – there’s just been a misstep at USDA. It’s time for them to take this seriously and resolve the issue.”
“SNAP is our state’s largest nutrition assistance program, reducing hunger for over 1.6 million households that rely on the program,” said Linda Bopp, Executive Director of Hunger Solutions New York, a statewide anti-hunger organization. “The ability to stretch grocery budgets by using SNAP at Farmers Markets to buy fresh, healthy, local produce benefits families, farmers and small businesses. Any disruption in allowing SNAP recipients to use their benefits at farmers markets is unimaginable in this day and age. We will work diligently with our state and federal partners to ensure that SNAP remains a vital part of the shopping experience at all of our bountiful markets in the Hudson Valley and across the state.”
Novo Dia, which processes 40% of all SNAP transactions at farmers markets, has historically had a contract with USDA to provide the software which allows SNAP recipients to convert their benefits to a form of payment which can be used to buy produce directly from vendors. In April, USDA awarded a contract to a new company, Financial Transaction Management, for the same service, but it’s unclear when the new company will have software available for market use. Late summer and early fall are the busiest times for farmers markets, meaning farmers who benefit from the program stand to lose millions of dollars in revenue and SNAP recipients could lose their access to fresh foods.
Over $22.4 million in SNAP benefits were redeemed at farmers markets in 2017. In New York State alone, over 100 farmers markets accept SNAP payments. Nearly half of New York State’s 215 participating farms are in the Hudson Valley and generate nearly half a million dollars in revenue from the program annually.
The text of the letter is below and an original copy is available here.
Dear Secretary Perdue,
I am writing to urge the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide an immediate solution to Novo Dia Group’s impending withdrawal from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT Transactions service.
Novo Dia Group, one of the few service providers who offer SNAP EBT processing technology, is set to pull out of the service by the end of July. This withdrawal would pose a substantial challenge to those who shop for groceries using SNAP benefits at the over 1,700 farmers markets nationwide. In New York alone, tens of thousands of SNAP recipients will be unable to access affordable, fresh, healthy food from farmers’ markets as a result of this withdrawal.
GrowNYC, which runs 50 of New York City’s farmers markets, exclusively uses the Novo Dia technology and will be left unable to facilitate transactions without it. GrowNYC supports hundreds of small farmers in the Hudson Valley and throughout New York. In fact, Hudson Valley vegetable growers earned more than $300,000 in 2017 through GrowNYC markets while Hudson Valley orchards earned nearly $150,000. Overall, SNAP transactions and Health Bucks, a program run by GrowNYC, these purchases generated $1.5 million in revenue for nearly 300 of New York’s small farmers. Any loss of access to these benefits at farmers markets would be devastating to the health and food-security of low-income Americans and hurt our small farmers during the peak of their season.
I respectfully request that the USDA take immediate action to avoid this significant loss to SNAP participants and farmers throughout the country. Thank you for your attention this letter. I look forward to hearing from you soon on this matter.