Md. is working to resolve the farmers market food stamp problem

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that they will begin to phase out the use of Novo Dia Group’s MobileMarket+ software — a popular program used to process SNAP/EBT benefits at farmers markets. Understandably, this has led to some concern and confusion among our farmers and citizens who rely on SNAP benefits to purchase fresh, nutritious foods from their local market.

As Secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture and a lifelong farmer, I can assure you that the Hogan administration is aware of the issue, and we are working hard to make this transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved. Gov. Larry Hogan recently sent a letter to USDA urging them to act quickly on the issue, and while USDA works to identify a permanent solution, there’s good news — SNAP recipients will still be able to use their benefits to purchase food from any market that has the ability to process EBT payments.

In 2017 alone, more than 19,000 Marylanders spent $333,961 in federal nutrition benefits and Maryland Market Money matching dollars at Maryland farmers markets. Those purchases supported 237 agricultural producers at 24 farmers markets across our state. We understand the negative impact this federal action could have on our state’s farmers and citizens if not swiftly resolved.

Fortunately, on July 19 the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs announced that they are providing Novo Dia Group operational funding for an additional 30 days so that stakeholder states will not experience any disruption in processing federal nutrition electronic benefits including SNAP. This short term funding by will keep the software application available until the end of August.

To help ensure there is no lapse in service, the Maryland departments of Agriculture and Human Services have identified alternative point-of-sale programs that will allow markets to continue accepting benefits. We urge markets and vendors to purchase or rent EBT processors so they will have an alternative method of processing federal nutrition electronic benefits, including SNAP, once the 30-day extension ends. We have provided a list of vendors for EBT processors, along with their contact information, to farmers’ markets and farmers across the state, and that list is available online at mda.maryland.gov/SNAP. Additionally, if markets do not have a place where they can plug in the machine, they may run manual vouchers.

Local farmers’ markets that do not use the MobileMarket+ app to process payments are not impacted. We hope that all vendors using the app are able to identify an alternative EBT processor before Aug. 30, when the MobileMarket+ app is effectively discontinued, and we stand ready to help them identify new payment processing options.

As we continue to navigate this process, I strongly encourage our farmers and SNAP recipients to visit the Maryland Department of Agriculture at www.mda.maryland.gov/snap and the Maryland Department of Human Services at www.dhs.maryland.gov for the most complete and up-to-date information.

Joe Bartenfelder is a lifetime farmer and Secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

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