SNAP/EBTLegal TopicsBecoming an Authorized RetailerHow Do I Apply?

Becoming an Authorized Retailer

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

How do I apply to accept SNAP benefits?

For a farmers market to become an authorized SNAP retailer, the first step is to confirm your market’s eligibility. Then, follow the steps below. The SNAP authorization process is free of charge.

Note: If your market operates in more than one location, you may be required to apply for, and obtain, separate SNAP licenses for each location. For more on this rule, click here.

1) Select a “responsible official”

FNS requires each market-applicant to identify and generally to provide the Social Security Number of at least one “responsible official.” (FNS treats the SSN as confidential.)

Responsible Official Eligibility by Business Structure

  • Sole proprietorship - owner
  • Partnership - any partner
  • LLC - any member in a member-managed LLC; the manager in a manager-managed LLC
  • Corporation - a board member or the board's designee
  • Nonprofit organization - a board member or the board's designee in a nonprofit corporation; any member selected by a majority of members in an unincorporated nonprofit association
  • Cooperative - a board member or the board's designee; any designated cooperative member if there is no board

The responsible official is the person responsible for ensuring the market will comply with the law and FNS regulations, policies, and other guidance on SNAP. If the market violates these laws and requirements, the market organization and responsible official can both be held accountable. For more information, click here.

The responsible official(s) must be someone with the legal authority to sign for and make commitments on behalf of the market. That requirement means different things under different business structures (see box at right). For organizations with a board, the board is ultimately responsible for ensuring the market's compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The board may delegate management duties, including "responsible official" duties, to an employee, but the board retains a duty to oversee that employee's compliance.

The board should also ensure that information is kept up-to-date with FNS when there is a turnover in responsible official. Farmers market organizations recommend that the board have a written policy explaining SNAP retailer responsibilities and detailing a process for selecting the responsible official. The policy should also include that the board reviews its SNAP retailer responsibilities annually and confirms that their information on file with FNS is current. If the responsible official or the market location changes, FNS should be informed immediately at the FNS Farmers' Market Hotline: 312-353-6609.

2) Gather the relevant information and documents

Information
  • Date the market opened under the current ownership
  • Market’s official name (the name you use on legal documents, such as leases, contracts, incorporation documents, etc.), mailing address, and address where the market is conducted (if different from the mailing address)
  • Home address, Social Security Number, and date of birth for a responsible official (you may have more than one responsible official)
  • The market’s Employer Identification Number (EIN), if it has one
  • Sales data from the market’s most recent IRS business tax return, if it has previously reported its sales to the IRS. If not, an estimate of the market’s annual sales
  • Availability of a variety of food types (e.g., bread/grains, dairy, fruit/vegetables, meat/fish/poultry) at the market and the percentage of total sales at the market that come from staple foods, snack or accessory foods, and all non-food items
  • The market’s operating schedule (i.e., months of the year it is open, days of the week it is open, and hours of day it is open)
Documents
  • Color copy of a photo ID for the responsible official(s)
  • Color copy of a Social Security card of the responsible official(s)
  • Copy of business licenses held by the market, if any
  • Copy of IRS Determination Letter for nonprofit organizations with federal tax-exempt status, if applicable
  • Copy of government ownership letter, for government-owned markets

Note: You have 30 days to complete the online application after you start it, with the option to save the application and return to it later. FNS deletes all applications that are incomplete after 30 days.

3) Complete the online application

First, you must register for a USDA “eAuthentication” account. To do so, click here.

Second, you must create, complete, and submit an online application. To do so, click here. For guidance with your online application, click here.

Upon submitting your online application, the FNS website will prompt you to upload and/or mail required documents.

4) My application is complete. Now what?

FNS may require that the market be visited by an FNS employee to confirm eligibility. A decision will be made within 45 days of the application being received. If you are approved, you will receive a SNAP license. Until you receive this license, you are not authorized to accept SNAP benefits at your farmers market.

IMPORTANT: If the owner and/or responsible official of your market changes, if your market moves, or if the market closes, you must notify FNS (and potentially re-apply for SNAP authorization). Click here for more information regarding reauthorization.

Note: If you identify as a Direct Marketing Farmer, the application process for becoming an authorized retailer for SNAP is slightly different. You still need to create an account with FNS and fill out an application. However, instead of selecting “Farmers Market Application,” use the “Store Application” and choose “Direct Marketing Farmer” under the “Special Store Type” drop-down menu.

Farmers Market Legal Toolkit