Temporary fix allows SNAP use at farmers markets to continue2

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COLUMBIA - A temporary fix will allow the Columbia Farmers Market to continue offering SNAP transactions for six months. 

The market uses Novo Dia Group's MarketLink app to process SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, users' electronic benefit transaction, or EBT, cards each week. 

Columbia Farmers Market executive director Corrina Smith said, "It's like Square or Paypal. It's just an app where we can swipe an [EBT] card."

Novo Dia Group announced on July 2 it would end its app program at the end of July. That would have left the farmers market, and hundreds of others across the U.S. who use the app, without a way to service SNAP users.

Farmer's Market Coalition said Novo Dia Group is the largest supplier of SNAP payment processing equipment to farmers markets in the country. More than 1,700 - or 40 percent - of farmers markets and farmers that accept SNAP are currently customers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced July 27 his state and the Farmers Market Federation of New York reached an agreement with Novo Dia Group to keep the app running until February 2019.

This is the second temporary fix to save the app.

National Association of Farmers' Market Nutrition Programs was the first group to provide a temporary fix. It extended support to keep the app running until the end of August.

Smith said this all goes back to the USDA who got the app up and running for farmers markets.

In 2013, the USDA decided to provide grants to fund wireless equipment for SNAP transactions across the United States. Novo Dia Group's MarketLink app service is one contractor that received grant money.

The USDA said the grant is meant for start-up costs and does not cover long-term costs of operating the mobile equipment or subsidize the service provider.

In March, the USDA said through a competitive selection process it awarded a different contractor grant money, not Novo Dia Group.

"We have over two thousand dollars in equipment that if that program ended at the end of July, we couldn't use it," Smith said.

She said the new funding from New York is a better solution providing more time, but the issue will resurface in February. Smith said she's going to have to stay alert as time counts down.

"Just make sure this is not going to end, so we’re not in the same situation we were in a couple weeks ago - having no idea what we were going to do or if our equipment was going to work," Smith said.

SNAP transactions at Columbia Farmers Market brought in about $82,000 for Columbia Farmers Market farmers last year, including dollar matching programs, Smith said.

"It’s a win-win solution for everybody because it’s not only helping these families get access to healthy food, it’s also helping our local farmers and our local economy," Smith said.

She said now she can only be hopeful that a permanent solution can be implemented. 

In a statement a spokesperson for the USDA told KOMU 8 News, "Since learning of Novo Dia’s decision earlier this month, the Food and Nutrition Service has been exploring all available options in an attempt to avoid a disruption in mobile EBT payments at farmers markets."