Status of EBT for Farmersí Markets in California

As of August 1 2003, approximately 24 of the 56 counties in California scheduled to convert from Food Stamp coupons to the Golden State Advantage Card (EBT card) have or are in the process of converting to Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT).

The overall conversion process has gone fairly well for county Food Stamp Programs, food stamp households, and major retailers. However, farmersí markets, with no electricity or phone lines, have fared less well since the EBT pilot projects began in Yolo and Alameda Counties in August 2002 due to a variety of reasons.

As of January 2001, there were a total of 78 farmersí markets or market associations in California certified by USDA to redeem food stamp coupons. Since that time, new farmersí markets have opened in neighborhoods with high food stamp use and farmersí markets not yet food stamp authorized have expressed interest in accepting EBT cards.

The California EBT Project established a Wireless Point of Sale (POS) Device Farmersí Market Demonstration Project to test and demonstrate the use of wireless technology to accept EBT at farmersí markets in California through February 2004.

Farmersí markets participate in the Wireless POS Device Farmersí Market Demonstration Project, utilizing wireless POS devices to accept EBT cards at market locations, in two different ways:
  1. Selected high food stamp volume markets may encourage individual farmers to become USDA authorized to accept EBT, receive free POS devices, and process their own transactions.
  2. Any farmersí market with a history of at least $100 per month in food stamp redemption may set up a system to use a single wireless POS device, provided free by the California EBT project, at a centralized location along with some form of scrip, provided by farmersí market management, to the EBT cardholder for purchases from farmers at the market.
Based on a status report provided by the Health and Human Services Data Center and the California Department of Social Services EBT Project to the Stateís Interagency Food Assistance Committee, as of July 11, 2003 a total of 15 wireless POS devices were operational at outdoor markets with 33 wireless POS devices authorized by USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and in the process of being interfaced with the EBT program. A total of 240 wireless POS devices have been budgeted for the Stateís Wireless POS Device Farmersí Market Demonstration Project.

In order to keep California farmersí markets accessible to all Californians, farmersí market advocates and enlightened farmersí market managers strongly believe that all farmersí markets in California that have redeemed or are redeeming or expect to redeem at least $100 per month in food stamp coupons should immediately opt to participate in the Wireless POS Device Farmersí Market Demonstration Project or simply request FNS authorization and operate outside of the time-limited project infrastructure.