USDA funding will expand availability of EBT technology at farmers' markets.
Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan announced on May 9, 2012, that the USDA will provide $4 million to help states expand availability of wireless technology in farmers' markets not currently participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The $4 million will be distributed to states using an allocation formula based on the number of markets not currently accepting SNAP benefits.
"Our country's 7,100 operating farmers’ markets offer opportunities to our children and their families to access healthy food across the country," Merrigan says. "SNAP participation at farmers' markets helps provide fresh fruit and vegetables to families and expands the customer base for local farmers—a win-win for agriculture and local communities."
In the past, farmers' markets, which often lack access to phone lines or electricity, have had difficulty redeeming SNAP benefits through the Electronic Benefit Transfer system. As a result of funding provided by the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012, states may provide wireless equipment to currently non-participating farmers' markets, opening the door for their participation in the program.
As of the end of the last fiscal quarter, there were 1,548 farmers' markets participating in SNAP. Since 2008, SNAP expenditures at farmers’ markets have risen 400 percent, and the USDA aims to expand the number of participating farmers' markets and increase annual SNAP redemptions at these locations.
In addition to the federal funds being provided now to state agencies, USDA's Food and Nutrition Service will soon post a Federal Register notice that will solicit public input on how best to use such funds in the future.
According to the Farmers Market Coalition, farmers markets’ and market networks interested in taking advantage of the USDA funding are advised to contact their state SNAP agency as soon as possible to learn more about participation during the 2012 season. All funds are to be distributed by the states before Sept. 30, 2012.
Visit the USDA National Farmers Market Directory for a list of farmers’ markets that accept SNAP and other federal nutrition programs.