WASHINGTON – Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the Farm Bill by a 213-211 vote. The Farm Bill (H.R. 2) reauthorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other programs under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that are set to expire this fall.
Last month, when it was first considered on the House floor, the Farm Bill failed to pass by a vote of 198–213 as a result of an unrelated issue on immigration. Rep. Mike Conaway (R–TX), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee House and the Farm Bill’s author, worked this week to ensure he had the additional votes needed to pass the bill.
Final passage of the bill occurred without a single Democratic vote. The full Democratic conference opposed the measure because it makes changes to eligibility and work requirements for SNAP recipients.
Throughout the Farm Bill process, NACS has advocated on behalf of the convenience store industry to preserve the fundamental role stores play as SNAP retailers. The provisions in the House Farm Bill that would affect convenience store retailers include:
- Processing fees. Interchange fees, processing fees or routine fees are prohibited on all Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) transactions. Currently, interchange fees are prohibited on all SNAP transactions. On commercial transactions, these fees are the second-highest operating cost for convenience stores. NACS strongly supports this language in the bill.
- Modernizing EBT technologies. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is required to periodically review EBT regulations and consider evolving payment technologies that are available, as well as alternatives for securing and authenticating a transaction.
- Mobile technologies. Mobile technologies may be used to redeem SNAP benefits following the completion of a pilot program of no more than five state agencies. If the Secretary of Agriculture determines that implementation requires further study of the pilot program, he will need to submit a report to Congress justifying the determination.
- Retail food stores data collection. FNS is required to conduct a retailer survey every two years to determine what is being purchased by SNAP recipients at retail food stores.
- National gateway. All SNAP transactions must be routed through a national gateway that will be sustained through the payment of fees by benefit issuers and third-party processors.
The Senate is expected to consider its version of the Farm Bill next week before departing for the July 4 recess. Once the Senate passes a Farm Bill, the two chambers will go to conference to reconcile the differences in the two bills.