SNAP/EBTLegal TopicsBecoming an Authorized Retailer

Becoming an Authorized Retailer

Woodcut illustration of filling out a form to become a SNAP retailer

Am I Eligible?

1) Who Qualifies to Accept SNAP Benefits?

As a general matter, both “farmers markets” and vendors who qualify as “direct marketing farmers” are eligible to apply to Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) for authorization to accept SNAP benefits.

Below, we describe how FNS defines “farmers markets” and “direct marketing farmers,” and the criteria these kinds of entities/individuals must meet to become SNAP-authorized retailers.

"Farmers Markets" Definition

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) defines a farmers market as “two or more farmer-producers that sell their own agricultural products directly to the general public at a fixed location, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, and grains.” “Fixed location” means “one location.” To read these definitions on the USDA website, click here.

Thus, if your market operates at multiple fixed locations (say in two or more locations in your community on different days during the summer season), you may be required to submit an application to become a SNAP-authorized retailer for each market location; if approved, you’re required to use one unique point-of-sale device per location. To learn more about this rule, click here.

“Direct Marketing Farmers” Definition

The USDA defines “direct marketing farmers” as “farmer-producers that sell their own agricultural products directly to the general public.” If your vendors meet this definition, they may be qualified to accept SNAP benefits, assuming they meet the criteria below. To read the definition on the USDA website, click here.

Note: Under federal law, direct marketing farmers are eligible to become SNAP-authorized retailers. Notably, some farmers markets allow (or rely on) direct marketing farmers to become SNAP-authorized retailers and bring their own POS devices to the market to process their own SNAP EBT transactions.

2) What Are the Requirements to Accept SNAP Benefits?

In order to become authorized to accept SNAP benefits, farmers markets, direct marketing farmers, and other retailers must meet at least one of the two food stocking rules outlined below, which we call the 50% Rule and the Staple Food Groups Rule:

Rule 1: 50% Rule Rule 2: Staple Food Groups Rule
More than 50% of the total dollar amount of your total gross retail sales (including food and non-food merchandise) must come from the sale of eligible staple foods (meat, poultry, fish, bread, cereal, vegetables, fruits, and dairy products).

For farmers markets, that 50% is taken from the total gross retail sales for all your vendors. For direct marketing farmers, it’s 50% of the total dollar amount of your own total gross retail sales.

You must continually sell at least seven (7) varieties of foods within each of the four “staple food groups” below, including perishable foods in at least three (3) of these categories:

  1. Meat, poultry, or fish
  2. Bread or cereal
  3. Vegetables or fruits
  4. Dairy products
Note: “Staple foods” are food items intended for home preparation and consumption -- not prepared foods. Likewise, “staple foods” does not include accessory food items, such as coffee, tea, cocoa, carbonated and uncarbonated drinks, candy, condiments, and spices. Note: “Continually” means that, on any given day of operation, the food is offered for sale and normally on display in a public area. “Variety of foods” means different types of foods (for example, in the “vegetables or fruits” category: apples, cabbage, tomatoes, and squash). It does not refer to different brands or different packaging.

For more information on eligibility, click here.

Farmers Market Legal Toolkit