Dear State SNAP Directors,
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association which represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries, and directors of the departments of agriculture in all fifty states and four U.S. territories. NASDA grows and enhances agriculture by forging partnerships and creating consensus to achieve sound policy outcomes between state departments of agriculture, the federal government, and stakeholders. On behalf of state agriculture officials, I write to bring your attention to a serious issue impacting the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables for low-income families.
Earlier this summer, nutrition and agriculture advocates across the country were alarmed after learning of the possibility that one of the companies that provides SNAP processing equipment and services to farmers and farmers markets would end its service. Furthermore, we have learned that over the next two years there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of markets and farmers that will lose eligibility for the USDA free equipment program. These disruptions brought to our attention the need to help ensure consistent, dependable and affordable ways for farmers across the country to serve SNAP shoppers. We understand that some states include language in their SNAP processing contracts that makes this farmer-shopper connection easy and we strongly encourage you to support this approach. This is one area where we can provide assistance in ensuring that this language is not only included in the contracts, but brought to fruition through outreach, education, and troubleshooting to the direct marketing community.
We ask for your assistance in helping address this problem. We are aware that some states have included provisions in contracts with SNAP processing vendors that require the companies to provide no cost, wireless SNAP-only processing equipment and service to FNS-authorized farmers and farmers markets in the state. Because of this, markets and shoppers in states that included this language were completely unaffected by the threat of a company shutdown this summer. We encourage all states to provide similar certainty and market opportunities to their producers while providing critical access to fruits and vegetables to SNAP recipients. In some cases, appropriate contract language exists but too few farmers and markets know that assistance could be available.
NASDA and the farmers market community around the country are ready to be your partners to ensure that SNAP shoppers can use their benefits to buy the freshest and healthiest food from their local farmers. We encourage you and your members to work closely with your state departments of agriculture to assist farmers with becoming qualified SNAP retailers, including full support for no-cost wireless point-of-sale equipment and service. We encourage the continued investments in increasing the number of farmers markets who accept SNAP benefits as a means of encouraging participants to consume a greater volume and variety of fruits and vegetables while also supporting the farmers closest to their community. Further, we look forward to working with you, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other stakeholders to produce a solution which processes all forms of federal feeding benefits. Please contact Alex Noffsinger (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions or would like additional information at this time.
Secretary, New Mexico Department of Agriculture