The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade organization representing the independent sector of the grocery industry, has sent a letter laying out its 2023 Farm Bill priorities to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture.
“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,” noted Stephanie Johnson, VP of government relations at Washington, D.C.-based NGA. “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.”
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Following are some of the key recommendations NGA included in its Feb. 2 letter:
Maintain SNAP Choice: According to NGA, SNAP Choice enables families to select the foods that are right for their circumstances, just like any other customer.
Make SNAP Online Permanent and Provide Technical Support for Retailers: SNAP online helps the program keep pace with private partners, NGA noted, adding that almost every state has introduced SNAP online purchasing. The association urged Congress to make the SNAP online program a permanent part of SNAP and to give USDA the resources to properly implement SNAP online and onboard more stores.
Maintain Current Program Structure and Increase Access: NGA expressed its opposition to large programmatic changes to SNAP such as block granting or migrating to bulk food distribution boxes, believing that these changes would “threaten the viability of grocery stores in the communities that need them most.”
Expand and Streamline the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP): Boosting access to GusNIP will help families make healthier choices and support their local economies, the association wrote in the letter, citing data from the first years of the program showing that its participants purchase more fruits and vegetables.
Protect Retailers From an EBT Tax: NGA strongly urged Congress to permanently prohibit processing fees on EBT transactions and protect retailers from an EBT tax, noting that credit card swipe fees are already one of the biggest operational costs for retailers, often cited as the second-highest operating cost after labor.
“Independent grocers are committed to expanding access to healthy foods across the United States through these strong public-private partnerships,” added 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.”