USDA releases SNAP stock ruling
December 9, 2016
The Agriculture Department today released the final rule requiring establishments that redeem Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to offer a larger inventory and variety of healthy food options.
The convenience store industry had opposed the rule and there were rumors that the bill funding the government through April would contain a rider not allowing USDA to go forward with the final rule, but it was not in the bill.
"This final rule balances the need to improve the healthy staple foods available for purchase at participating stores, while maintaining food access for SNAP recipients in underserved rural and urban areas," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
"We received many helpful comments on the proposed rule and have modified the final rule in important ways to ensure that these dual goals are met. I am confident that this rule will ensure the retailers that participate in SNAP offer a variety of healthy foods for purchase and that SNAP recipients will continue to have access to the stores they need to be able to purchase food."
“This final rule balances the need to improve the healthy staple foods available for purchase at participating stores, while maintaining food access for SNAP recipients in underserved rural and urban areas.” Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary
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Previously, a retailer could be authorized to participate in the program with a minimum inventory of 12 items. Now, the number of required food items is expanded to a minimum of 84.
USDA noted that it had extended the comment period for the proposed rule to make sure all interested parties had the opportunity to bring their voice to the final rule, and said it "made significant changes to respond to those comments."
"The final rule announced today incorporates feedback from over 1,200 comments received and ensures the new standards will balance commenters' concerns," the department said in a news release.
In a detailed explanation, the department said, "In particular, in the final rule multiple ingredient foods will continue to count towards retailer eligibility. In addition, the existing regulatory requirement that specifies the threshold of hot and cold prepared foods sold that makes a location an ineligible restaurant (rather than an eligible SNAP retailer) is far more flexible than in the proposed rule. Now the requirement is nearly the same as the requirement that has been in place for some time with only a modest change to account for foods heated and consumed on site after purchase."
"Changes to the definition of accessory foods ensure that stores are not able to participate in SNAP by selling primarily snack foods," USDA said.
"At the same time, the definition of variety has been expanded to make it easier for stores to meet the new requirements mandated by the Agricultural Act of 2014, and the number of each variety of staple food items retailers must have in stock has been halved as compared to the proposed rule from six to three."
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, commended USDA for the changes to the rule.
"Based on a cursory review of the rule, it appears that USDA responded to concerns with the initial proposed ruling. I look forward to reviewing the details and continuing to engage on this important issue," Conaway said in a news release.
–The Hagstrom Report