This notice invites the general public and other public agencies to comment on this proposed information collection. This is an existing collection in use without an OMB Control Number in which we are seeking approval to establish a process for SNAP retailers to request a waiver from the FNS to offer SNAP recipients incentives that encourage them to purchase healthier foods. This collection burden only affects SNAP retailers and non-profit organizations or governmental entities who partner with SNAP-authorized stores. There is no data collection activities for SNAP households in this request.
SNAP equal treatment provisions at 7 CFR 278.2(b) and 7 CFR 274.7(f) require that SNAP recipients receive treatment equal to that received by other customers at all stores authorized to participate in SNAP with the exception that sales tax may not be charged on eligible foods purchased with SNAP benefits. This equal treatment provision prohibits both negative treatment (such as discriminatory practices) as well as preferential treatment (such as incentive programs).
Pursuant to Section 4008 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, PL 115-334 (2018 Farm Bill), individual SNAP authorized retailers (or non-profit organizations or governmental entities, which partner with authorized stores) may request that FNS waive the SNAP equal treatment provisions in order to be allowed to implement an incentive program the meets the requirements under 7 U.S.C. 2018(j) to encourage SNAP recipients to purchase healthier foods.
Most SNAP authorized stores that offer incentives to SNAP recipients are either farmers' markets or part of the statutorily-authorized Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), which is administered by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Farmer's markets are already authorized to provide incentives to SNAP recipients under a blanket FNS waiver of the SNAP equal treatment provision, specifically for farmers' markets. GusNIP grantees are authorized to provide incentives to SNAP recipients through GusNIP grant projects under 7 U.S.C. 7517 and, therefore, do not require a waiver to implement a SNAP incentive program. Only SNAP retailers that are not farmers' markets or that are not offering incentives under a GusNIP grant are required to obtain individual waivers from FNS to provide incentives at authorized SNAP retailer locations to SNAP households. FNS has been providing incentive waivers to SNAP retailers prior to passage of the 2018 Farm Bill under FNS' regular waiver process.
To date, FNS has been receiving an average of four incentive waiver requests per year. Waivers provided to non-profit institutions or state/local/tribal governments generally cover multiple retailer locations. With this new streamlined process, the Department estimates that out of 245,000 authorized retailers that participate in our program, approximately 18 different retailers would be covered under 10 different incentive waiver requests annually. In general, the waivers are granted for one year.
The new streamlined process for requesting a waiver would involve emailing information to a specified FNS email box.