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Farm Bill Compromise Contains SNAP Provisions

The legislation contains several provisions of concern to convenience retailers that redeem SNAP benefits.
January 29, 2014

​WASHINGTON – Late Monday night, negotiators in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives reached an agreement on a new Farm Bill that would, among other things, impose additional obligations on retailers that redeem Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. These provisions, however, are far more manageable for convenience stores than language that was originally contained in the Senate Farm Bill. For this reason, NACS supports the compromise agreement.

The compromise agreement — which still must be approved by the full House and Senate and signed by President Obama before it becomes law — would impose the following additional obligations on SNAP retailers:

1. It will require them to implement point-of-sale technology systems that will not redeem SNAP benefits for the purchase of ineligible items, and will further preclude cashiers from manually overriding this prohibition. A majority of convenience store operators already have such systems in place. For those that do not, they will eventually need to upgrade their systems, although this provision does not become effective until the Department of Agriculture issues regulations implementing it.  This is likely to take at least several months.

2. The compromise agreement requires SNAP retailers to stock at least seven different items in each of the four “staple food” categories. (Current law requires only three items in each category.)

3. The compromise requires SNAP retailers to stock at least one “perishable” food item in at least three of the four staple food categories. (Current law requires perishable items in only two of the staple food categories.)

NACS supports the compromise agreement because it represents a dramatic improvement for the convenience store industry compared with earlier iterations of the Farm Bill. In the last Congress, the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee passed Farm Bills (which never became law) that would have precluded any retailer from redeeming SNAP benefits if 45% or more of their sales were from alcohol, hot food, or tobacco products. This would have virtually eliminated convenience stores from the SNAP program. In the current Congress, the Senate passed a revised Farm Bill that would have granted the Department of Agriculture the authority to impose similarly restrictive rules on the convenience store industry. 

NACS has spent almost two years educating members of Congress on the important role that convenience stores play in the SNAP program, particularly for financially challenged Americans who live in rural and deep urban environments. Largely because of these efforts, the compromise agreement unveiled Monday night will enable convenience stores to continue playing this crucial role in the SNAP program.

The nearly 1,000-page compromise Farm Bill cuts overall SNAP funding by more than $8 billion, while eliminating or consolidating dozens of agriculture subsidy programs. It also for the first time establishes pilot programs to encourage SNAP recipients to seek jobs and bars the government from spending money to recruit new beneficiaries or to advertise the SNAP program on television, radio, and billboards.

The House is expected to pass the compromise agreement on Wednesday, with the Senate to follow suit in the next three weeks. The bill will likely become law before the end of February.

NACS will continue to follow the Farm Bill as it moves forward, and will provide a comprehensive analysis of any remaining regulatory issues once it becomes law.