Good News for Farmers Markets

July 30, 2018

Photo credit: USDA Photo credit: USDA

In early July, Novo Dia Group (NDG), a company that provides mobile technology for farmers markets, announced they were ceasing operations. NDG’s service allows farmers to accept SNAP EBT benefits (commonly known as food stamps) as payment at farmers markets. The news was a huge blow to farmers markets around the country, including here in New York State.

Shortly after the announcement, Governor Cuomo sent a letter to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue, stating:

“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.”

New York State Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer wrote to USDA as well, along with 12 of their colleagues in the Senate, highlighting the value of SNAP dollars:

“In 2017, over 7,300 farmers and markets accepted SNAP, resulting in over $22 million in purchases directly into the local food economy. Providing the ability for SNAP participants to purchase food at farmers markets is a win-win. Not only does this provide critical access to healthy, local fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods, it also helps family farmers to develop important local markets and expand business opportunities.”

Fortunately, last Friday, Governor Cuomo’s office announced they had reached an agreement with NDG to extend service through the end of the farmers market season.

Farmers Market Coalition is providing up-to-the-minute information on the NDG shutdown here. They also have an online fundraiser to buy replacement SNAP EBT equipment for affected markets.

A long-term solution is still needed – that’s why we must ensure Congress passes a 2018 Farm Bill that supports family farmers and local food systems. The Senate’s draft farm bill creates a Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) to do just that – LAMP would provide permanent funding to support farmers markets, value-added agriculture, and food safety cost-share assistance. In contrast, the House’s version of the farm bill guts funding for local food programs. The Daily Yonder has written a helpful breakdown of the difference between the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill here.

Kudos to our New York State Senators, Governor Cuomo, New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Richard Ball, and the Farmers Market Federation of New York New for taking the lead nationally in standing up for our farmers, our farmers markets, and our SNAP recipients.