Maryland farmers markets will continue accepting SNAP benefits through at least February

A series of stopgap measures will ensure Maryland farmers markets can continue accepting SNAP benefits for customers through at least February.

Users of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and farmers across the country have been in limbo since the vendor whose software is used by some markets to charge SNAP cards announced it would cease supporting the program on July 31.

A national nonprofit quickly stepped up and offered operational funding to the vendor, Novo Dia Group, for an additional month.

A few days before that fix was set to expire, the State of New York and the Farmers Market Federation of New York announced they’ll be the next to provide emergency support.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently said he struck an agreement with the Novo Dia Group that will keep the software operating through the rest of the farmers market season. The fix allows farmers markets across the country to continue SNAP transactions through the Mobile Market+ Portal.

New York’s “level of support and the speed in which they were able to put this partnership together has been extraordinary,” Josh Wiles, president of the Novo Dia Group, said in a statement. “This agreement allows not only New York Farmers' Markets, but all users of Mobile Market+ nationwide, to continue operating without any service disruption.”

Baltimore’s director of food policy said the city is grateful, and will benefit from New York’s actions.

“It’s fantastic that the governor of New York has stepped up to the plate to support farmers markets around the country,” Holly Freishtat said. “It’s buying time for all of us to be thinking through what the long-term solutions are.”

There are eight farmers markets in Baltimore that accept SNAP benefits. Five use the Nova Dia platform, including the Baltimore Farmers Market & Bazaar under Jones Falls Expressway.

Across Maryland, 18 of 24 farmers markets would have been affected by the shutdown.

Others, including the Waverly market on 32nd Street, use different processing systems and would not be impacted.

Amy Crone, executive director of the Maryland Farmers Market Association, said she’s hopeful a permanent solution will be reached by next season.

“It was quite nerve-wracking when we thought the service was going to cease to be supported at the end of July and then again at the end of August,” she said. “This provides enough breathing room to get farmers through the end of the season.”

trichman@baltsun.com

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