California Rep. Joe Baca, ranking member of the subcommittee, asked for an update on efforts by the AMS and  Food and Nutritional Services (FNS) to ensure farmers markets accept food stamps, or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, through EBT transactions.

“This is an important topic – one that both my agency and Food and Nutritional Services have been working on collaboratively to determine the hurdles people are facing in terms of getting more SNAP benefits into farmers markets,” said Pegg.

“There are a couple of programs working to increase EBT accessibility at farmers markets. That is a Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) … and the grant program provides for 10 percent of the funds. However, in 2010, we saw 30 percent of the dollars in the FMPP go to support EBT transactions.”

The USDA efforts have increased the number of EBTs at farmers markets to 1,600, said Peggwho also referenced a handbook being compiled “to help individual stalls at farmers markets to put in EBT machines, how to administer that effectively, how to make it cost effective. … The handbook provides them additional tools to make it simpler so these things are more accessible in more markets.”

Baca pointed out the 2008 farm bill “established a minimum of 10 percent set aside with FMPP for funds to cover (EBT) equipment. … I understand since adding the set aside to the program, demand for the funds has far exceeded the supply. Are you finding this to be the case?”  

The 2011 numbers are not in yet, said Pegg. However, “we’re hopeful once we review all the applications received on July 1, we’ll see an increase in the number of applicants for those supporting EBT transactions at farmers markets, CSAs (community-supported agriculture), food hubs, and so forth. Various entities across the nation recognize the need for providing this to their constituency. Detroit’s food hub recognized they’re doing $30,000 a month in sales just for food stamp recipients.”