It was announced in mid-July that the Novo Dia Group of Texas, a major provider of mobile Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) technology for farmers markets and farm stands, would discontinue those services. At the time of this announcement, it appeared that Novo Dia Group was going out of business and would cease all services and operations effective July 31, 2018.
This left many markets using this service and the local, state, and national agencies that work with those markets scrambling to take immediate action to find alternative methods for processing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT payments. In Michigan, SNAP benefits are distributed via the Bridge Card.
In Michigan, once the announcement was made, the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA) began attempting to identify markets and farm stands utilizing this service and subsequently began alerting markets to the possibility that Novo Dia Group may end service on July 31. Through these efforts, MIFMA was able to estimate that 50 of the more than 160 Michigan farmers markets that accept SNAP Bridge Cards use the Novo Dia Group Mobile Market+ application. Additionally, approximately 35 farmers and farm stands use this technology for their individual businesses.
Although this shutdown threat affects 1,700 markets nationwide, Michigan is fortunate to have state resources allocated to support replacing this equipment. Funding for no-cost, wireless point-of-sale devices is currently available to markets via a one-time, $500,000 line item in the 2018 State of Michigan budget. Under contract with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), MIFMA had already started the process of guiding markets in need of SNAP processing equipment through the application process for this funding. Upon being notified of the possibility that a number of markets might lose their ability to process SNAP Bridge Card benefits, MIFMA ramped up its efforts to transition as many of these affected markets as possible to the no-cost devices available through the state budget allocation.
In the meantime, in an effort to avoid a lapse in the purchasing ability of food assistance clients at farmers markets and farm stands, the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs announced that it would help support Novo Dia Group’s operation through August 31, 2018.
Then, on July 27, 2018, the State of New York in partnership with the New York Federation of Farmers Market announced a six-month agreement with the Novo Dia Group to continue operating without any service disruption through February 2019. This support, while temporary, should provide markets and farm stands additional time to transition to new equipment.
This situation underscores the importance of exploring new and improved ways for farmers and markets to reliably access equipment that processes food assistance benefits. This is an issue MIFMA has been working to improve since its inception in 2006. While this work took a significant step forward in Michigan last year when the state Legislature committed state funding for no-cost wireless point-of-sale devices for markets and farmers accepting SNAP Bridge Cards, MIFMA continues to advocate for a more permanent and long-term resolution. MIFMA believes the best solution is to make a permanent revision to the State’s contract with its EBT service provider to require the contractor to offer consistent and reliable access to no-cost equipment to process SNAP transactions for all farmers markets and direct marketing farmers. This work is timely as Michigan’s current contract requires renewal by 2020. MIFMA recognizes that this equipment and long-term access to it can ensure that all Michigan residents can access healthy food at farmers markets and farm stands across the state for many years to come.
For additional information, please review Michigan responds to maintain Bridge Card transactions at farmers markets as one provider ends service