Farmers market electronic payment system helps low-income consumers

08/09/07 11:33AM By Ross Sneyd


(Host) New technology is being introduced today at a few farmers' markets. And the Agriculture Agency says it should help farmers and some low-income consumers.

Many of Vermont's 50 farmers markets have accepted food stamps for a long time.

But most people who qualify for food stamps no longer use the old-fashioned paper coupons. Instead, they get electronic cards similar to a debit card.

So the Agriculture Agency has set up a system where shoppers at a farmers market can swipe their cards at a central kiosk and get coupons that they can then present to farmers for payment.

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts says the new program is being piloted in Winooski, Bellows Falls and Brattleboro.

(Tebbetts) "The goal here is to get as much fresh produce into low-income families as we can and also tap into the market and get more money in farmers' pockets."

(Host) Tebbetts says about four-and-a-half million dollars in food stamp benefits go to Vermonters each month, but little of that goes directly to farmers. He says state officials hope the electronic system will begin to change that.

The kiosks also will be available for people who want to use a traditional bank debit card.

If the system is successful, the Agriculture Agency plans to look into ways to expand it in the future.

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