On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, released an opening statement at a hearing titled Farm Bill 2023: Trade and Horticulture in which she reminded everyone that “the Farm Bill helps farmers put food on tables here and around the world.”
Echoing in sentiment, the National Grocers Association (NGA), which represents the independent sector of the food retail and distribution industry, on Thursday outlined its 2023 Farm Bill list of priorities for independent grocers and the impact they have as well.
“As deliberations begin on Capitol Hill on the 2023 Farm Bill, NGA is ready to work with lawmakers to ensure the needs of the independent grocery industry are addressed,” said Stephanie Johnson, NGA VP of government relations, in a statement. “Independent community grocers are a linchpin for communities across the country by providing nourishing food to millions of Americans at an affordable price. Legislation must consider the critical role independent grocers play across America so they can continue expanding food access and supporting local economies.”
Included in the NGA letter were the following recommendations:
Maintain SNAP choice
SNAP is successful because of the flexibility it provides both retailers and SNAP participants. SNAP Choice ensures families can shop with the same dignity as any other customer by choosing the foods that are right for their situation.
Make SNAP online permanent and provide technical support for retailers
SNAP online helps the program keep pace with private partners. Almost every state has launched SNAP online purchasing. Congress should make the SNAP online program a permanent feature of SNAP and provide USDA with the resources to properly implement SNAP online and onboard additional stores.
Maintain current program structure and expand access
NGA opposes large programmatic changes to SNAP like block granting or migrating to bulk food distribution boxes, ideas that threaten the viability of grocery stores in the communities that need them most.
Expand and streamline the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP)
Expanding access to GusNIP will help families make healthier choices and support their local economies. The data from the first years of the program show that the program is working and consumers participating in this program have increased purchases of fruits and vegetables. Congress should build upon the success of this pilot and target resources to communities in need.
Protect retailers from an EBT tax
Grocers are constantly being confronted by increases in the acceptance of card payments. These fees are quickly becoming one of the biggest operational costs for retailers, often cited as the second highest operating cost behind labor. NGA is strongly urging Congress to permanently prohibit processing fees on EBT transactions and protect retailers from an EBT tax.
“Independent grocers are committed to expanding access to healthy foods across the United States through these strong public-private partnerships,” said Johnson. “SNAP is necessary for feeding families, raising healthy children and supporting local communities, and we look forward to working with Congress to ensure the program is strengthened.”
NGA, which represents 21,000 independent grocers throughout the U.S. is based in Washington, D.C. and will host its 2023 NGA Show Feb. 26-28, at the Caesars Forum Convention Center in Las Vegas.