USDA Offers Farmers Markets Food Stamps Grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that it was offering awards and grants to improve wireless technology needed to allow farmers markets to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as the Food Stamps Program.

The USDA’s announcement comes in the middle of one of the most contentious farm bill debates in recent memory. After months of tortured debate, a final bill has passed the Senate Agriculture Committee, leaving the 2012 Farm Bill one step closer to passage.

The Senate bill, however, contains significant cuts to agricultural spending, including deep cuts to the Food Stamp Program. Adding insult to injury, the bill being debated by the Republican controlled House of Representatives (as well as budget bills that have passed Representative Paul Ryan’s budget committee) contain even deeper cuts to the Food Stamp Program.

The USDA’s announcement, in some ways, represents an attempt to ease upcoming cuts by maximizing the Food Stamp Program’s efficiency. The $4 million made available by the USDA will help expand wireless technology to farmers markets, allowing individuals on Food Stamps to purchase local produce with their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards.

According to Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan, “SNAP participation at farmers markets helps provide fresh fruit and vegetables to families and expands the customer base for local farmers — a win-win for agriculture and local communities.”

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer