The National Grocers Association (NGA) spoke out in opposition to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must disclose retailers' food stamp revenues to Argus Leader Media as part of a Freedom of Information Act. The FOI act was initially denied by the USDA.
NGA has been interwoven in this case from early on. President and CEO Peter Larkin testified on behalf of the USDA, which was sued by Argus Leader after denying the 2011 FOIA. He acted as a supermarket expert and representative of the independent supermarket industry, and also filed an amicus brief in FMI’s appeal of the District Court’s ruling in favor of the Argus Leader.
“A SNAP transaction is simply another form of payment at stores that accept SNAP. Sales data, including store-level sales data from SNAP or any other transaction, is proprietary information," Larkin said. The NGA has long held the belief that this data should remain private because it contains "proprietary store sales information that could be used by competitors to cause harm in the food retail marketplace," he said.
"The supermarket industry is highly competitive and any public disclosure of this sales information could give competitors an unfair advantage, particularly over many small and medium-size grocers, in addition to stigmatizing stores that serve low-income communities," Larkin said. "This adverse court ruling underscores the importance of advancing a legislative solution to this problem, such as the House Farm Bill, which protects store-level SNAP data from public disclosure.”
The association also points to the USDA’s policy, adopted in 1978, that prohibits the "disclosure of sales and redemption information submitted by retailers except for purposes directly connected with the administration and enforcement of the Food Stamp Act (now Food and Nutrition Act)."