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USDA Contractor Switch May Stop Farmers Markets from Accepting SNAP

In an apparent effort to make life harder for farmers and poor eaters, the Sonny Perdue USDA has made a strange contracting decision that will lead to canceling the ability of farmers markets to accept SNAP benefits.

According to Modern Farmer, last November the USDA gave a $1.3-million contract to a new, unknown company, Financial Transaction Management, with one listed employee, Angela Sparrow, who doesn’t talk much to the press. Apparently FTM booted the previous SNAP-processing tech provider and waited until this month to take applications for new providers, meaning that FTM won’t have a new provider in place by July 31, when the prior provider contract runs out, to facilitate SNAP purchases at farmers markets.

The FTM contract smells fishy:

Going further down in the USDA statement we have this: “Throughout the program, FNS has worked with three different contractors; the National Association of Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs (also known as MarketLink), the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC), and most recently, Financial Transaction Management (FTM). All three contracts were awarded through an open, competitive process that complied with federal contracting laws, and the companies were chosen because they were both technically acceptable and the best value.”

FTM, as we reported, is listed on GovTribe as having a single employee, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment. FTM was also formed mere weeks before the contract became available, and neither FTM nor the USDA has provided documentation regarding who FTM is, why they were awarded the contract, and what their plans are for the future of this program, none of which is particularly “open” [Dan Nosowitz, “USDA Responds to SNAP Issues at Farmers Market, But Does Not Clarify,” Modern Farmer, 2018.07.16].

USDA also appears to be falsely shifting blame for the impending loss of service to the previous provider:

Let’s start off with the problem of that first clause, “Since being notified of the provider’s decision to discontinue service.” That provider, Novo Dia, told us that, despite repeated attempts to get anyone from FTM on the phone, it took weeks to get a response, at which time Novo Dia was told that it would not be supported. The USDA’s phrasing makes it sound like Novo Dia surprised the USDA with its decision, and that this was Novo Dia’s decision at all. Both are false; according to Novo Dia’s president, Josh Wiles, Novo Dia would have been happy to continue providing its service, and would certainly have said something earlier if anyone at either FTM or the USDA had communicated with them [Nosowitz, 2018.07.16].

South Dakota farmers markets have been accepting SNAP benefits since 2010. The Vermillion Area Farmers Market was the first in our state to accept SNAP.


  1. Porter Lansing 2018-07-18 07:34

    Krystall Ball can see government markets, stocked with nearly expired food commodities heavy on carbs and low on protein and nutrition as the only stores for SNAP recipients. Only minimal hours open and super long lines.
    “They’re only poor people because they should be working not looking for handouts!!” said the political party in power.

  2. mike from iowa 2018-07-18 13:08

    Rumour has it Angela Sparrow worked for the new firm First Data before both got this gig. Rumour also says it may be Angela Sparrow was Miss Illinois USA in 2011. Nothing definite, yet.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-18 15:34

    Update: The Department of Social Services tells me that the USDA has notified them of the impending changes. DSS says there are six direct farmers and 18 farmers markets authorized as SNAP retailers.

  4. mike from iowa 2018-07-18 16:39

    You could/can buy seeds and plants with SNAP for your own garden.

    WIC program is being affected by new rules as well.

  5. OldSarg 2018-07-19 08:42

    . . . and these are the career government employees you want in charge of your health care, investigating “collusion”, doing your taxes, negotiating treaties and so forth.

    Had it been a Walmart SNAP card it would have been ready for the change, offered discounted prices and still paid employees more than the average local wages.

  6. mike from iowa 2018-07-19 09:07

    Had it been a Walmart SNAP card it would have been ready for the change, offered discounted prices and still paid employees more than the average local wages.
    and still counseled employees to apply for Medicaid and Snap cards because WalMart is too cheap to pay a livable wage ( cuts into shareholders profits, can’t have that)

    The prices aren’t that much cheaper once the competition has been forced to close.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-19 19:31

    Each bag of groceries purchased at a farmers’ market do more net good for the buyer’s health and the local economy than a comparable purchase at Walmart.

    The point is not where else SNAP cards work. The point is that we have a perfectly functional system now, allowing poor people needing food assistance to access good local food options, and that the feds are wrecking that functional system by turning over a big contract to an unknown, unproven vendor.

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