March 28, 2014
Elmore County farmer Justin Barrett, right, works through the MarketLink application process after a presentation at the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Eligible farmers will receive the equipment necessary to accept electronic forms of payment in return for signing a three-year contract.
MONTGOMERY, Ala., — The new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) MarketLink™ program will provide approved Alabama farmers with equipment needed to accept credit, debit and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) electronic benefit transfers. Farmers packed the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries auditorium March 27 to learn more about the program and start the application process.
Through MarketLink, eligible farmers may sign a three-year contract to receive a free iPhone 5, card reader and wireless printer, along with a two-year wireless data service and free merchant processing for a year.
“In researching how to accept debit cards, I found a website for MarketLink, and that’s what brought me here today,” said Elmore County farmer Justin Barrett. He is partnering with Montgomery County farmer Garrett Henry to market locally-grown, farm-raised beef through a new company, River Region Beef LLC.
“By accepting credit and SNAP cards, we’ll be able to sell our beef to a bigger market,” he said. “This USDA program will make that process a lot easier, smoother and cheaper for farmers.”
Chilton County farmer Jimmie Harrison also attended the meeting to find out how he could use the program at his produce stand.
“We already take the Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons, but we’re interested in accepting credit, debit and SNAP,” Harrison said. “People don’t use cash anymore. I think this would be very beneficial for our business.”
According to a report from Washington State University, Harrison is right. Researchers found that at farmers markets accepting electronic forms of payment, only 6 percent of sales were in cash. The report also stated the average electronic sale was $34.57.
State government officials said the program is a win-win for farmers and consumers, but the main goal is to increase the healthy options available to SNAP recipients.
“This is very important because, we want to promote nutritious food for all our recipients,” said Brandon Hardin, Alabama’s SNAP director. “The partnership between USDA, Farmers Market Authority and SNAP is a great opportunity to increase access, especially in rural communities, to healthy fruits and vegetables.”
To learn more about the application process, visit MarketLink.org.
The MarketLink program is a joint partnership among the USDA Food and Nutrition Service; the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs; the NOVO DIA Group, Mobile Market+™; and WorldPay™.