WASHINGTON – Yesterday, at a House Agriculture Committee hearing titled, “The Past, Present and Future of SNAP: Retailers are Critical Partners in Carrying Out the Program,” House members criticized the proposed rule that drastically changes retailer eligibility requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Representative David Scott (D-GA) commented that the rule is “impractical, unworkable, discriminatory, draconian and unnecessary.”
The lines of questioning centered around the proposed rule as members of Congress from both sides of the aisle lambasted the proposal for going too far and putting at risk the ability of the 45 million low-income Americans on SNAP to have access to food. Both Representatives Scott and Bob Gibbs (R-VA) directly called on Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to rescind the rule.
Testifying on behalf of NACS and the convenience store industry, Doug Beech of Casey’s General Stores asserted that the proposed rule would force all of Casey’s stores and tens of thousands of other small stores to stop accepting SNAP—either because their hot, prepared food sales exceed the 15% threshold or because of the far-reaching changes to staple foods and stocking requirements in the proposal.
Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), who is the ranking member on the Nutrition Subcommittee, raised specific food access concerns, noting that many SNAP beneficiaries work nontraditional hours and depend on small format retailers and their extended hours of service.
Beech testified: “This proposal will create serious access burdens for SNAP beneficiaries as many tens of thousands of small format retailers leave the program in droves.”
The panel of witnesses also included Kathy Hanna of The Kroger Company, Jimmy Wright of Wright’s Market, and Carl Martincich of Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores.
Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) closed the hearing, underlining the unintended consequences of the FNS proposal. He said that the agency is “writing rules that do not work in the real world.”
Conaway encouraged the retail community to file comments with the Food & Nutrition Service before the deadline next week on May 18. If you haven’t done so already, you can find simple instructions and a template on the NACS website.