Here is a letter from Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) supporting funds for EBT machines at farmer’s markets – a VT success that needs to go national.

The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye
Chairman
Senate Committee on Appropriations
Capitol, S-128
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Herb Kohl
Chairman
Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
SD-122
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Thad Cochran
Vice Chair
Senate Committee on Appropriations
Capitol, S-128
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Roy Blunt
Ranking Member
Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
SD-122
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Inouye, Vice Chair Cochran, Chairman Kohl, and Ranking Member Blunt:

We appreciate the past support you have given to programs that bring farmers and consumers together, and urge you to increase the access of financially struggling families to healthy fresh foods by supporting the President’s request for $4million in the USDA Food and Nutrition Service budget to provide wireless point of sale Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) technology for farmers markets in Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Agriculture Appropriations.

Access to healthy locally grown food continues to increase for most Americans. Between 2009 and 2010 alone, the number of farmers markets in the U.S. grew by 16 percent, according to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, to more than 6,100 – the vast majority of which are hosted by nonprofits, municipalities, or other civic organizations. Unfortunately, access to healthy local products is limited for most SNAP beneficiaries. In 2010, only 0.012% of all SNAP benefits were redeemed at the 1,611 farmers market retailers authorized to accept them.

There are nearly 200,000 brick and mortar SNAP retailers which are supplied with free government supported EBT equipment, but farmers markets generally lack access to electricity and land lines, so cannot benefit from standard EBT equipment. Instead, most farmers markets must find alternative funding to cover the wireless technology, staffing, recordkeeping, and other administrative costs associated with offering SNAP as a service to their communities. This limits the ability of farmers markets to ensure that SNAP beneficiaries have access to the healthy fresh food they provide. With the cost of wireless devices having declined dramatically, the President