Congress Passes Legislation to Fix SNAP Final Rule | NACS – Media – NACS Daily
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Congress Passes Legislation to Fix SNAP Final Rule

Lawmakers direct FNS to redefine “variety” to work for small retailers.
May 5, 2017

​WASHINGTON – NACS is pleased to report that the omnibus spending bill, passed by Congress this week, contained a provision that would require the Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) to rewrite one piece of their updated Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailer eligibility regulations. Specifically, FNS will have to adjust the problematic definition of “variety” so that retailers participating in SNAP will have more options for which foods can count toward staple food stocking requirements.

The provision also states that until FNS rewrites their definition, retailers will have to comply with the old SNAP requirements, which require retailers to stock three varieties of food in the four staple food categories.

To participate in SNAP, convenience stores must stock 7 varieties of foods in the 4 staple food categories: (a) meat, poultry or fish; (b) dairy; (c) breads or cereals; and (d) fruits or vegetables. In December, FNS published the final SNAP retailer standards regulation, and although it addressed many of NACS’s concerns with the proposed rule, it failed to address the definition of “variety.” The new rules were slated to go into effect for retailers applying for new SNAP licenses on May 17, 2017, and for current SNAP retailers on January 17, 2018.

As finalized, the final regulation’s definition of “variety” makes it exceedingly difficult for retailers to stock popular widely consumed products in order to meet their SNAP requirements. For instance, a retailer who stocks bacon and ham could only count one of those items toward his stocking requirements, because retailers can only count one meat per animal. In order to meet the requirements of seven varieties of food in the four staple food categories, retailers would have to stock expensive and uncommon items like shrimp and goat cheese. As NACS pointed out to FNS in its comments on the proposed rule, such a limited definition of “variety” is burdensome for small format retailers who face limited square footage, storage and cooler space, and constraints in the supply chain. And if small format retailers are unable to participate in SNAP because of overly burdensome regulations, SNAP beneficiaries will have less access to staple food items—precisely what the program is designed to prevent.

For this reason, Congress sought to correct the issue in the FY2017 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which passed with bipartisan support in the House on Wednesday afternoon and in the Senate on Thursday; and President Trump then signed the bill into law.

“Congress continues to recognize the vital role convenience stores play in SNAP by providing access to food for millions of Americans. We applaud the passage of the FY2017 Omnibus Appropriations Bill and the provision that directs FNS to redefine ‘variety’ in a way that is workable for small format retailers,” stated Anna Ready, director of government relations at NACS.

Stay tuned to the NACS Daily for an update once FNS adjusts the definition of variety. NACS members will be able to access the updated compliance guide here.