Court rules government must release SNAP sales data
May 10, 2018
A federal appeals court in St. Paul has ruled that the government must release sales data for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Argus Leader, a South Dakota newspaper, reported.
The effort to get the data released was started by the Argus Leader.
"It's been seven years battling for access to this public information, and we're pleased SNAP sales figures will finally be made available," Argus Leader News Director Cory Myers said. "As I've said before, at its heart, this is about fundamental rights. Taxpayers need to know where their money is spent. This information has importance beyond South Dakota as SNAP is one of the nation's biggest safety net programs."
Peter Larkin, president and CEO of the National Grocers Association, the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, said, "A SNAP transaction is simply another form of payment at stores that accept SNAP. Sales data, including store-level sales data from SNAP or any other transaction, is proprietary information. NGA has long maintained that a retailer's SNAP store data should remain private as the data contains proprietary store sales information that could be used by competitors to cause harm in the food retail marketplace.
"The supermarket industry is highly competitive, and any public disclosure of this sales information could give competitors an unfair advantage, particularly over many small and medium-size grocers, in addition to stigmatizing stores that serve low-income communities," Larkin added. "This adverse court ruling underscores the importance of advancing a legislative solution to this problem, such as the House farm bill, which protects store-level SNAP data from public disclosure."
NGA noted that in August 2011, the Argus Leader sued USDA for annual SNAP store sales data after USDA denied a Freedom of Information Act request for the data. In May of 2016, Larkin testified on behalf of USDA as a supermarket expert and representative of the independent supermarket industry in the case. Additionally, in 2017 NGA filed an amicus brief in FMI's appeal of the District Court's ruling in favor of the Argus Leader. NGA strongly supports the continued adherence to USDA's policy, adopted in 1978, that prohibited the disclosure of sales/redemption information submitted by retailers except for purposes directly connected with the administration and enforcement of the Food Stamp Act (now Food and Nutrition Act).