USDA Releases Final Rule on Retailer Acceptance of Food Stamps, Concerns Remain


Washington, D.C. –The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service’s (FNS) final rule, released on December 8, 2016, changes the eligibility requirements for retailers participating in the food stamp program. The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) believes the final rule makes some changes that were necessary to ensure people could get the food they need, but still has some provisions that may risk hurting SNAP beneficiaries.

“It’s imperative that Americans in need have places where they can buy food,” said Anna Ready, NACS director of government relations. “We are encouraged by what appears to be significant progress in the final rule, although we remain concerned that FNS is still trying to penalize retailers for sales of items to non-SNAP customers. We are going through the rule in detail to determine how it will impact convenience stores and the SNAP customers they serve.”

NACS is heartened that USDA removed several problematic provisions from the final rule, which would have made it impossible for tens of thousands of retailers to meet its requirement. Those provisions included a ban on multiple ingredient items (such as vegetable beef stew), and an expanded definition of “accessory foods” that would have knocked out healthy grab-and-go items, such as hummus and pretzel packs from counting toward a retailer’s stocking requirements. FNS has also changed the provision that retailers stock six of every SNAP item on shelves at all times and now will require three of every item to be on shelves.

NACS remains concerned, however, that FNS has retained a modified provision tying retailer eligibility to sales of food to customers who don’t use SNAP. NACS is also troubled by the provisions relating to variety which appear, at first glance, to inject substantial complexities into the program.