First of all, accepting SNAP/EBT on your farm is not challenging, it is just a bit time consuming and tedious. But never fear! There are a lot of really amazing resources.
Just a few definitions to help get you started:
Accepting EBT on Farm
I would definitely start here: The CSA Farmer's Nationwide Guide to Accepting SNAP/EBT Payments by Zenger Farm. It is invaluable in this process and I recommend reading through the whole document thoroughly! I also recommend printing the document and having it next to you while filling out the SNAP application. This resource was written in 2013, but the information regarding applying with FNS is still relevant and extremely helpful. I would follow this part of the guide to a T (predominantly the info starting on page 15).
To accept SNAP benefits through EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) you will first need to:
Using a mobile reader to accept SNAP through EBT is not mandatory. You can use the paper voucher system and mail in the vouchers for a check. I decided it made more sense to be able to run SNAP cards (like a credit card) for our farm, rather than mailing in vouchers (and potentially discovering a customer has insufficient funds).
The caveat of using the mobile reader (which connects to your phone like a square reader) is that the reader is not free and neither is the service. So, you can either choose to pay for this service, or you can apply for grant funding. There are two options for applying for grant funding for this service. Here is a snippet of an email I received from Amanda Cross of the Oregon Farmers Market Association describing those options:
There are two programs out there right now to provide free EBT equipment to farmers markets and direct marketing farmers:
Next Steps and what I decided to do
After researching both options, I decided to go with MarketLink. I decided to go with MarketLink because I had heard it was more time efficient to go through the third party than through the government organization. I also did not need an additional smart device and planned to use my phone. After recently revisiting the Market Link v Oregon DHS info sheet, I believe the DHS program has become more robust, and might be more worth looking into. When I applied at the beginning of the year, there were more benefits of going through MarketLink. I would suggest calling both organizations to see which might fit your needs better.
The MarketLink application requires a bit of going back and forth between documents, emails, and government websites. First, you apply to see if you are eligible for the grant (this process takes very little time). If so, you will receive confirmation and a Market Link ID number via email. Once you have that, you will need to wait to continue applying for the mobile reader/app until you have your FNS Approval Number (meaning until the government approves your application for SNAP). Once you have that number, you can continue the process with MarketLink. For this part of the process, you will need to provide your Federal ID number again (business license) and the bank account information you want to use in order for the organization to pay you.
This is where it gets confusing. There are four different companies you will receive correspondence from in regards to the mobile reader/app. Here is the breakdown:
Once you get past all the applications and actually get the app and reader, it is actually very easy to use and our payments always come through. Also, the folks at Novo Dia Group have been very responsive.
Double Up Food Bucks for your CSA (NOT at farmer’s markets)
If you are a vegetable farmer and have a CSA, you can apply to work with PNW CSA Coalition (previously PACSAC) to help your customers receive up to a $200 Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) grant towards the cost of their CSA. You do not have to be able to take CSA to work with this organization, so skip all that headache above if you only want to use SNAP for your CSA.
I just received an email from Holly at PACSAC today. Here is a copy of that email:
We have DUFB funding through 2023, and are already working on our plan for after that.
Small caveat -- you need to join our org and we need to do the SNAP processing for your members. The reason why is that DUFB is tied to SNAP: a member can't get more DUFB than they pay in SNAP, so if, for example, a member can only pay a portion of their monthly fee because they have run out of benefits, they will only get part of their DUFB allocation, and we keep a running database on how much DUFB is left.
I'm attaching last year's documentation so you can get a feeling for what it entails. We haven't done 2021 yet but it will be nearly identical. Registration to join PACSAC will be out next week so join our listserv here to get notification.
FAQs: SNAP and DUFB
Get set up to process SNAP (this is a checklist on having PACSAC process your SNAP/DUFB members)
This looks like a wonderful opportunity, and they are very excited to work with folks all over the state. The fees for this service are:
The way the relationship works between your farm, PACSAC, and your customer is (from PACSAC website):
Other CSA accessibility ideas and resources
Here are some additional resources to consider when thinking about food accessibility and your CSA/Market presence.
Ok, that's all I have for now folks. If you have any questions, send them my way and I will try to help you out!