Congress has passed and President Trump has signed legislation containing a provision requiring the Department of Agriculture to rewrite a provision of the SNAP retailer eligibility rule issued in late 2016. That rule's new requirements, which were scheduled to take effect on May 17, 2017, will now be delayed until the Department of Agriculture can rewrite them to comport with Congress's new directives.
Specifically, Congress has directed the Department of Agriculture to rewrite the definition of "variety" to provide greater flexibility for retailers that redeem SNAP benefits. The retailer eligibility rule released last year essentially stipulated that different types of the same food item (e.g., tomatoes and tomato juice; ground beef and beefsteak; turkey burgers and sliced turkey) only count as one "variety" of each staple food item.
SNAP retailers are currently required to stock three different "varieties" of food items in each of the four "staple food" categories: (i) vegetables or fruits; (ii) dairy products; (iii) meat, poultry, or fish; and (iv) bread or cereals. Under the new retailer eligibility rule, SNAP retailers' stocking requirements will increase significantly, with a minimum of seven different "varieties" in each staple food category.
This threshold increase, combined with the less flexible definition of "variety," made compliance for small format retailers such as convenience stores and travel center stores particularly onerous. This is why Congress decided to direct the Department of Agriculture to rewrite the definition of "variety" -- to provide retailers more flexibility to satisfy the new, seven-variety threshold.
Until the SNAP retailer eligibility rule is rewritten, the new requirements will not take effect. Thus, even though the non-variety requirements of the new rule are not changing, all aspects of the new rule will be delayed until that rewrite occurs. Thus, NATSO members currently participating in SNAP -- as well as those looking to obtain new SNAP licenses -- will need to comply with the old SNAP regulations and stock three different varieties in the four staple food categories until the retailer eligibility rule is rewritten.
It is unclear at this time how long this rulemaking process will take.
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