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NYS Lauds Investment to Protect SNAP Access to Farm Markets
New York Ag Connection - 02/06/2019

New York State Tuesday applauded Square's $2 million investment in Novo Dia Group (NDG), which will support the continued expansion of the Mobile Market+ electronic benefits transfer platform on which farmers' markets across the State currently operate. This solution follows New York State's action this summer that ensured uninterrupted service to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients and agricultural producers who rely on farmers' markets. The State partnered with the Farmers Market Federation of New York (FMFNY) to provide funding to NDG, the mobile application vendor that provides SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) services to farmers' markets, allowing them to continue to operate through the rest of the farmers' market season and until a long-term solution could be found.

"With this investment from Square, New Yorkers receiving SNAP will continue to be able to use their benefits at farmers' markets, ensuring access to healthy, nutritious food for some of our most vulnerable residents," said New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Samuel D. Roberts. "Last summer, thanks to Governor Cuomo's quick action, New York State stepped up to fund a temporary solution so that SNAP benefits could continue to be utilized at farmers' markets nationwide. The collaboration between Novo Dia and Square will provide farmers' markets, farmers, and SNAP recipients with confidence that this service will continue without interruption."

"As a result of Governor Cuomo's leadership this summer, New York was able to ensure that there was no interruption in service for our SNAP recipients and for our farmers," State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said. "We are pleased that New York was able to provide a solution to Novo Dia until they received the investment from Square, which will benefit our families in New York and across the country and our farmers who depend on farmers' markets for sales."

"We are grateful for the support we received from the New York Department of Agriculture, the Farmers Market Federation of New York, and the National Association or Farmers Market Nutrition Programs," said Josh Wiles, president of Novo Dia Group. "Their efforts prevented an interruption of services to farmers' markets across the country and allowed NDG the time to construct a long-term solution."

"Novo Dia Group's SNAP and WIC payment-acceptance tools provide a critical service to important and underserved customers," said Chris Massey, head of government relations and public policy at Square. "We are thrilled that Novo Dia Group will support buyers and sellers in farmers' market communities across the country. This is another example of how successful public-private collaboration can support main street businesses and drive innovation."

In July 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded a new contract that provided SNAP EBT equipment and services for farmers' markets to a company that does not support mobile, cellular-based transactions, ultimately denying hundreds of thousands of needy families the opportunity to purchase fresh, nutritious, locally-grown fruits and vegetables. With no replacement technology in place, both farmers and SNAP beneficiaries faced uncertainty about the future of market transactions. The Novo Dia Group, which worked with the USDA to develop the cellular mobile technology that enables farmers' markets to accept SNAP benefit cards for purchases, had indicated that they were no longer able to continue in business due to the lack of continued support from the USDA.

The state worked with the FMFNY and other impacted states to formulate a solution. A temporary agreement with Novo Dia was reached that provided uninterrupted access for SNAP recipients to continue to make purchases at farmers' markets, while also benefiting local farmers during their busiest season. The agreement also ensured that other states relying on cellular-based transactions at farmers' markets could continue their services as well. Novo Dia serves over 1,700 farmers' markets and farmers that accept SNAP nationwide.

"We are delighted to see investment from Square into this critical space," said Phil Blalock, executive director of the National Association of Farmer's Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP). "It will ensure that farmers and farmers' markets can continue to operate and expand their customer base for all types of transactions anywhere in the country as well as avoid any interruption in service. The more traditional payment services are available to small producers, the stronger their markets and opportunities become."

"The Farmers Market Federation of NY is pleased that Novo Dia Group has received an investment from Square that will allow it to maintain the Mobile Market Plus app," said Diane Eggert, executive director of FMFNY. "Many of the farmers in our markets are already using Square for debit and credit card transactions and find the reporting and recordkeeping options to be helpful in tracking their sales. We look forward to seeing what innovations the two companies can bring to the farmers' market community."

The State has supported the implementation and use of SNAP EBT for SNAP recipients at farmers' markets since 2002. In 2017, New York processed $3.4 million through 221,051 transactions at 243 sites, providing healthy, nutritious food to nearly 60,000 New York households.

Under Governor Cuomo's direction, New York had made tremendous progress to not only expand and improve SNAP usage at farmers' markets, but also to decrease operating costs, such as:

- A record number of farmers' markets throughout the state now accept SNAP benefits;

- Funding for the highly successful FreshConnect Checks program has been increased, which provides a $2 incentive for every $5 SNAP benefit spent at farmers' markets, increasing families buying power by 40 percent; and

- In 2014, New York farmers' markets made the transition to the current smartphone SNAP/EBT processing to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs.

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