Earlier this week Chris Jones, NGA’s Vice President of Government Relations & Counsel, participated in a listening session with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS) on implementation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill. Chris provided verbal comments on several Farm Bill provisions impacting the independent supermarket and wholesale industry and reiterated NGA’s role as an integral partner in the public-private partnership that is SNAP.
Chris expressed NGA’s support for the prohibition on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) processing fees and the importance of recognizing the need for incentives rather than restrictive mandates to encourage healthy eating behavior, specifically the reauthorization and expansion of the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program. Please read below for Chris’ full comments:
“Good Afternoon, My name is Chris Jones, Vice President of Government Relations & Counsel, at the National Grocers Association, or NGA. NGA represents the independent supermarket and wholesale industry. We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments the FNS about the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill.
NGA supported passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, as we believe it preserves and strengthens the public-private partnership that is SNAP. Independent grocers are a proud public partner with the federal government in ensuring low-income Americans have access to a variety of healthy and affordable foods.
NGA stands ready to collaborate with FNS on implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill at any time. Given the time constraints on this call, I will highlight two priority sections of the Nutrition Title and follow up in written comments on others.
First, NGA supports the prohibition on EBT processing fees in Sec. 4006 (d). We believe this provision will prevent State EBT processors from imposing excessive fees on strengthen the ban on interchange fees. Additionally, EBT outages damage retailers’ ability to sell food to low income SNAP customers, who are impacted the most during outage scenarios. Little evidence suggests that state EBT processors have taken the appropriate steps to resolve this problem and outages are only becoming more and more frequent. We hope that Section 4006(d) will also be a solution to restore competition to the contracting process so that more reliable firms have a shot at state EBT processing contacts.
We’re also very pleased that the Farm Bill recognized the need for incentives rather than restrictive mandates to encourage healthy eating behavior. The reauthorization and expansion of the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program, or FINI, in Sec. 4205, is a major step in the right direction. I’d like to highlight that subsection (b)(9) prioritizes the use of FINI funds at food retail locations, and we’d recommend the FINI RFA reinforce the need for grantees to fund more FINI projects in grocery stores. Secondly, in subsection (e) the bill establishes a Training and Technical Assistance center to help project participants to implement a FINI program. We believe this will go a long way in addressing many of the technical challenges that our members are experiencing. We recommend that USDA direct most of the resources made available by this section to the establishment of a retail Training and Technical Assistance center. Grocery stores are key to ensuring the long-term success of the FINI program.
Again, NGA appreciates the opportunity to provide comments today. We appreciate our partnership with USDA and we look forward to continuing to work with you as you implement the 2018 Farm Bill. Thank you”