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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, wrote a letter to policymakers expressing industry concerns regarding a proposed rule published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture “that includes problematic new eligibility standards” for retailers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“The proposed [SNAP] rule would make tens of thousands of small businesses ineligible to participate in the program. Small businesses will be harmed and SNAP beneficiaries, who rely on these small stores in both urban and rural environments, will lose options they need to feed their families,” NACS wrote in its letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies, and the chairman and ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee.
SNAP provides nutrition assistance to low-income individuals and families. According to NACS, in order to accept SNAP benefits, a retailer must meet certain eligibility requirements, including "depth of stock" requirements that necessitate retailers stock seven varieties of products in four “staple food” categories.
On Feb. 17, the Department of Agriculture’s Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) published a proposed rule altering the eligibility requirements for retailers participating in SNAP. According to NACS, the proposal codifies the 2014 Farm Bill provisions — something NACS supported — but also makes other changes to retailer eligibility requirements that Congress never intended to address in the bill.
“The proposal would impede neighborhood retailers’ ability to participate in the program, which in turn would hinder food accessibility for SNAP recipients that use their benefits at these small-format retail locations,” NACS stated in a news release.
“It appears that FNS is trying to push small retailers out of the SNAP program altogether, for no sound public policy reason,” NACS wrote to Congress, adding that Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Undersecretary Kevin Concannon recently testified before the House Appropriations Committee that there are more small stores participating in SNAP “than we really need.”
During the week of March 14 at the NACS Government Relations Conference in Washington, D.C, industry stakeholders will be communicating to members of Congress and their staffs that convenience stores play a fundamental role in SNAP, particularly for low-income Americans.
OTHER SNAP ISSUES
The eligibility requirements are not the only SNAP issue on which NACS is taking a stand.
As CSNews Online reported on Feb. 23, NACS has also come out against FNS’ proposal that would make it so that "multiple ingredient" items, such as macaroni and cheese or cold pizza, would not be counted in any "staple food" category and would not go toward a retailer's depth of stock requirements.
"This is a dramatic change from current rules, which permit multiple ingredient items to be counted in one staple food category depending on the main ingredient. For instance, since the main ingredient in mac and cheese is pasta, now it could count as one item in the bread and cereals category," NACS said.
Additionally, on March 8, both NACS and SIGMA: America's Leading Fuel Marketers submitted official comments regarding a new proposal addressing photo identification requirements for electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards under SNAP. The associations said this would bring about change the retail industry can support — as long as it comes with education.
The associations pointed out the goals can only be met if the photo requirements "do not create confusion, hinder the ability of retailers to participate in the program, or place unnecessary hurdles in the way of beneficiaries who want to use their benefits."