July 13, 2018
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Calls On USDA to Protect SNAP Recipients' Access to Farmers Markets

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today issued a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in response to reports that as a result of USDA's inaction, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients may no longer be able to use their benefits at farmers' markets.

 

The text of the letter is available below.

 

The Honorable Sonny Perdue

Secretary

United States Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Ave. S.W.

Washington, DC 20250

July 12, 2018

 

Dear Secretary Perdue,

 

I am writing with deep outrage that as the result of USDA's inaction, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients may no longer be able to use their benefits at farmers' markets.

 

Your office sent us notice yesterday that Novo Dia Group, the only USDA-authorized contractor of a cellular-based redemption system app for smartphones, would be closing in 20 days - right in the middle of the busy farmers' market season. A brand-new company, which does not provide smartphone capabilities like Novo Dia Group, has apparently been awarded the USDA contract. This will result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of fresh food transactions for SNAP recipients. As a result, both farmers and SNAP beneficiaries will suffer.

 

Thousands of hard-working New Yorkers who depend on SNAP benefits to provide healthy, fresh meals to their families and New York State farmers and small business owners will be impacted by this inaction. USDA's failure to cultivate and approve mobile applications that allow access to farmers' markets for SNAP recipients is incredibly reckless, and demonstrates the Trump administration's lack of regard for those who will be left behind as your agency attempts to provide new Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) equipment with a new operator.

 

Additionally, there has been no guidance on how this transition will be implemented - not to vendors, not to farmers, not to families relying on these benefits, and not to USDA's SNAP partners in New York State, the Department of Agriculture & Markets and the Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance. In 2014, New York farmers' markets made the transition to smartphone SNAP EBT processing to increase efficiency and reduce operating cost. This move away from cellular capabilities back to wireless data for payment processing seems to be a giant step backwards and will impose new and greater cost burdens on farmers and reduced access to farm and farmers' market produce for low income individuals.

 

The State has been supporting the implementation and use of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) for SNAP recipients at our farmers' markets since 2002. Last year, New York last year processed $3.4 million through 221,051 transactions at 243 sites, providing healthy, nutritious food to nearly 60,000 New York households. Your proposed disruption in service will devastate the children and families who rely on SNAP for their nutrition as well as on the farms who grow and provide that food.

We simply cannot let this happen.

 

USDA's failure to maintain an EBT system for SNAP benefits is the worst of government ineptitude and is a rejection of your agency's core principles.

 

I urge USDA to fix this problem now and provide a responsible solution that ensures no disruption for recipients of SNAP benefits, our farmers, or the farmers' markets that work so hard to support both.

 

Sincerely,

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

 

 

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