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1:08 PM

When the old meets the new, something has to give

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When the old (farmers markets) meets the new (electronic commerce) something has to give. Recently, a major supplier of mobile EBT technology (which allows farmers markets to accept SNAP EBT cards as a payment for for food covered by the SNAP program informed the federal government that it will no longer provide this technology.

As a result, thousands of SNAP cardholders have been unable to use their cards at these remote, unwires sites around the country and farmers markets, farm stands and route sellers will be deprived of a significant portion of their revenue until the problem is resolved.

The US Agriculture Department in a statement acknowledged the role that farmers markets plays in providing nutritious food for Americans as well as economic opportunities for farmers.

Brandon Lipps, the administrator for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service which manages the SNAP program, explained that the agency’s focus is mitigating the impact of losing the technology provider on SNAP beneficiaries and farmers.

Administrator Lipps points out that current law requirers states to provide no-cost options for farmers markets to accept SNAP benefit cards. But the law doesn’t requirer that the mechanism be a wireless connection although the Food and Nutrition Service strongly encourages states to support wireless technology.

Because of the costs involved in providing wireless technology to farmers markets and the fact neither that farmers nor markets can be charged for the cost of the wireless equipment, Congress approves 4 million dollars every year to subsidized the use of wireless at farmers markets. With this funding, FNS since 2012 has enabled the purchase of wireless equipment for use by eligible farmers and markets.

Still, the economics of equipping thousands of farm markets with cutting edge technology may not work. Only a couple of companies are willing to provide this service.

FNS is continuing to look at ways to work through this economic conundrum by modernize the delivery of SNAP benefits at Farmers Markets.
2:35 PM

The Relationship between Local Community Banking and Small Business Lending

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The Relationship between Local Community Banking and Small Business Lending

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has recently published a working paper on the importance of local community banks to small business lending.

The paper looks at the effect that a reduction in community banking can have on lending to small business.

The authors examined this issue in the context of mergers that involved community banks and the effects those mergers had on small business lending. Among the findings, local small business lending “declined significantly” in counties where only only the acquired institution operated prior to the merger, relative to counties where the acquiring bank had operations before the merger.

In reaching this conclusion the authors controlled for the general SBL market and local economic trends.

The authors call their findings “consistent” with an argument that after such mergers small business funds have been diverted to the markets of the acquiring institution. They say they have found “even stronger evidence” during and following the financial crisis that SML was directed away from the markets of acquired community banks.

Nevertheless, their overall finding is that local community banks still are important players in small business lending.

To read the working paper, visit https://philadelphiafed.org/research-and-data/publications/working-papers.

The authors of the working paper are Julapa Jagtiani and Raman Quinn Maingi, of the Bank.

To contact the authors directly, email julep.jagtiani@phil.frb.org