Significant proposed changes to SNAP regulations go beyond what Congress
intended in the Farm Bill and dramatically limit your ability to participate in the program.
BY ANNA READY
had to offer consumers a wider variety of foods, but
it didn’t raise those numbers too high. In so doing,
the Farm Bill made sure that SNAP beneficiaries
would have access to an appropriate array of food
choices while still enabling small format retailers to
continue participating in the program.
Before the Farm Bill, retailers were required
• Three different varieties of items in each of the
four staple food categories:
1. Meat, poultry or fish
2. Bread or cereals
3. Vegetables or fruits
• And at least one perishable item in two of the
staple food categories
After passage of the Farm Bill, depth of stock provisions increased a retailer’s stocking requirements to:
• Seven different varieties in each of the four staple
• At least one perishable item in three of the staple
After two years of waiting, in mid-February,
FNS published a proposed rule that updates the
SNAP regulations to include the Farm Bill provi-
sions. Unfortunately, that is not the only thing the
proposal does. The proposed rule makes several
additional changes to the SNAP regulations that
go well beyond what Congress intended in the
While the proposal maintains the numbers laid out
in the Farm Bill, it changes the definition of what is
considered a “retail food store” and what counts as
a “staple food.” It is these two changes that stand to
push tens of thousands of convenience stores out of
the program altogether.
Anew proposed regulation would drastically under- cut the convenience store industry’s ability to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—America’s
largest anti-hunger program.
On February 17, the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) published a
proposed rule that would significantly alter eligibility
requirements that a retailer must meet in order to
accept SNAP benefits.
This proposed rule is not in itself a surprise, as
NACS has been waiting for it to drop—for two years.
Why so long? Because some parts of the rule came
out of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (also known as
the Farm Bill).
As you may recall, during negotiations over the
Farm Bill, quite a few cooks were stirring the pot
when it came to SNAP: The Obama administration
was focused on consumer health, consumer groups
were concerned about food access, and retailers were
worried that if participation requirements became
too burdensome, they’d have to leave the program.
Congress listened to all of these concerns and
debated several measures that would have effectively prevented convenience stores from participating
in SNAP. But after successful lobbying and grass-roots efforts by NACS, Congress recognized the
valuable role convenience stores play in SNAP, and
ultimately reached a truly reasonable bipartisan
compromise. The compromise addressed so-called
“depth of stock” requirements, that set the amount
and variety of foods a retailer must have in stock
to participate in SNAP. Ultimately, the Farm Bill