As processor shutdown looms, nonprofit funds another month of SNAP at farmers markets

One week after FERN and the Washington Post reported on the imminent shutdown of an EBT payment processor responsible for 40 percent of all SNAP transactions at farmers markets, a national farmers market advocacy group has stepped in to fund the processor’s operations for another month. The emergency funds will give markets across the country a few more weeks to figure out how to process SNAP once the Novo Dia Group ceases operations.

The National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP) will provide 30 additional days of funding to Novo Dia, while advocates and farmers try to figure out a permanent solution to replace the processors’ services. The additional funding will allow 1,700 farmers markets across the country to continue processing SNAP through the end of August.

In a statement released by NAFMNP, Amy Crone, executive director of the Maryland Farmers Market Association, said that NAFMNP’s efforts will save Maryland markets and farmers more than $330,000 in potential lost revenue.

“We are extremely grateful to NAFMNP for their continued support. This will not only avoid any immediate disruption of service, but also allows additional time to explore avenues for a long-term sustainable solution,” said Josh Wiles, president of Novo Dia, in the statement.

NAFMNP, which represents 45,000 farmers and 8,000 farmers markets across the country, said it will “[continue] to seek a long-term resolution of these challenges in conjunction with USDA.”

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service released a statement late Thursday in response to NAFMNP’s announcement, saying it was “pleased” with the news. “While USDA has used available funding to help new markets get equipment to participate in SNAP, the ultimate goal is for the marketplace to independently adopt mobile EBT as a regular part of their business practice. FNS is committed to working with all stakeholders to find a long-term solution.”

In the wake of FERN and the Post’s reporting on this issue, many politicians have demanded that the Department of Agriculture take swift action to come up with a new solution for SNAP processing to avoid service interruptions. Fourteen Democratic senators wrote to acting deputy undersecretary Brandon Lipps to ask that the USDA “explore every possible option to ensure there is no disruption in EBT service at farmers markets during this critical market time.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also wrote to the USDA, as did several U.S. representatives, including John Faso of New York, Sanford Bishop of Georgia, and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.