The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the largest of the U.S Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) domestic food assistance programs, provides benefits to eligible participants; these benefits are redeemable for SNAP-eligible foods at SNAP-authorized retailers. SNAP-authorized retailers are stores and other food sellers that are allowed to accept SNAP benefits. In FY2015, the vast majority of benefits were redeemed at “super stores” and supermarkets.
On December 15, 2016, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published in the Federal Register a final rule, “Enhancing Retailer Standards in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).” The final rule implements provisions of the Agriculture Act of 2014 (“2014 farm bill,” P.L. 113-79) that increase inventory requirements for SNAP-authorized retailers. In addition, the rule addresses other USDA-FNS policy objectives. Like the proposed rule, the final rule makes changes to 7 C.F.R. (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 271 and Part 278 in five areas of retailer authorization policy: (1) sales of hot, prepared foods; (2) definition of staple foods; (3) inventory and depth of stock; (4) access-related exceptions to the rules; and (5) disclosures of retailer information. The effective date for the final rule is January 17, 2017, but most aspects of the rule take effect on subsequent dates.
The final rule responds to many of the comments and concerns raised about the proposed rule. The proposed rule had been controversial, particularly due to the provisions not explicitly required by the farm bill and due to the potential impact of changed inventory requirements on smaller retailers.