NATSO Writes USDA Opposing Changes to SNAP Application Form

NATSO has written a letter to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging the agency to reconsider proposed changes to the application form that retailers must submit to redeem SNAP benefits.  The proposed updates to the form included specific references to sales data of particular product categories (such as tobacco and alcohol).  NATSO's letter expressed concern that USDA is requiring retailers to provide more information than is necessary, and urged USDA to revise the form to avoid dissuading travel centers from participating in SNAP.

USDA is updating the form in response to recent changes in SNAP retailer eligibility requirements.   Among other things, the proposed updates to the form ask retailer applicants to provide information regarding the percent total of staple foods, accessory foods, hot and/or cold prepared foods, and non-food items such as tobacco and gasoline.
 
USDA claims that the information is necessary to assess whether retailer applicants run afoul of a new rule prohibiting retailers who derive more than 50 percent of their total gross sales from food that is cooked or heated on site.  This provision is designed to prevent restaurants from redeeming SNAP benefits. "With respect to NATSO members, however, such information is completely unnecessary to determining whether the retailer's application should be granted."
 
"Every travel center in the United States will comply with the 50 percent of total gross sales provision because more than 50 percent of their total gross sales will come from motor fuel sales," NATSO wrote.  "It is therefore unnecessary to require them to submit additional information in order to assess their qualifications to participate in SNAP ... ."
 
NATSO's letter comes on the heals of a U.S. Circuit Court ruling that releasing SNAP sales data would not cause substantial competitive harm to retailers and is not, therefore, protected from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  NATSO strongly opposes this ruling, and has expressed to USDA that SNAP redemption data at the individual store level should be treated as "confidential business information" and thus protected from FOIA requests.  USDA has sought to protect this information but the Argus Leader, a South Dakota newspaper, has sued to get this information released.  
 
NATSO is continuing to monitor this litigation and other developments in this area.
 
[To read NATSO's letter to USDA click here.]
 
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David Fialkov

David Fialkov is the Vice President of Government Relations, as well as the Legislative and Regulatory Counsel, at NATSO. In this capacity, Mr. Fialkov direct's NATSO's legislative, regulatory, and legal strategy on a range of issues, including transportation, energy and fuels, labor, data security, and taxes. Mr. Fialkov also oversees NATSO's political engagement program, including individualized legal and political counsel to member companies. Prior to joining NATSO, Mr. Fialkov was the senior associate in the Government Affairs and Public Policy practice at the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson in Washington, D.C. At Steptoe, Mr. Fialkov advised clients on legislative, regulatory, and political issues, as well as legal concerns. His primary clients included trade associations representing the motor fuel wholesale and retail industries, including the National Association of Convenience Stores and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America. Mr. Fialkov's focus was not only on the motor fuels business, but also the litany of other issues that retailers confront, including labor matters, foodservice issues, healthcare and employment issues, tax matters and data security. Prior to joining Steptoe, Mr. Fialkov graduated with honors from George Washington University Law School. He received his B.S. Summa cum laude with highest honors from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Allison and daughter Lilah. More
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