Educational Support for Increasing the Acceptance of Federal Nutrition Benefits by Maryland Farmers

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2023: $190,073.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2026
Grant Recipient: Agriculture Law Education Initiative
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Megan Todd
Agriculture Law Education Initiative


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, networking, technical assistance, workshop

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem or Opportunity and Justification: 

    Nutrition assistance feeds the hungry, stimulates the local economy, and is maximized through programs that match nutrition assistance spending at farmers markets. According to the USDA FY21 Year End SNAP Summary, farmers markets and direct marketing farmers experienced an increase in sales to SNAP shoppers during the pandemic. Both the state and federal governments have continually and incrementally increased the financial allocations for these types of programs, meaning nutrition assistance programs have the potential to offer a sustainable source of income for farmers who direct market.

    However, according to the USDA 2020 Local Food Marketing Practices survey, only 106 of the 1,203 farms in Maryland that produce and sell food locally through direct marketing practices accept SNAP; only 191 participate in WIC FMNP. The administrative challenges that hinder farmers from becoming program retailers are commonly known by growers who have attempted the process: 1. there are multiple programs with varying standards, 2. the programs are difficult to apply for because applications are often lengthy and detailed, and 3. the programs can be difficult to administer due in part to varying technology standards and programmatic standards. 

    Agricultural marketing professionals and extension agents are trusted advisors tasked with helping farmers understand and navigate the complex business of farming. Yet, according to Maryland agricultural service providers, the many programmatic requirements make it challenging for them to thoroughly understand the available federal nutrition programs. This lack of knowledge means service providers may fail to inform farmers about the economic and social opportunities food access programs represent. Furthermore, because service providers have inconsistent knowledge about the programs and the network of available resources, farmers without access to guided assistance may give up early in the application process. 

    Solution and Approach: 

    The goal of this project is to help service providers gain a common baseline knowledge of nutrition programs, equip them with plain-language materials to make the application process feel less overwhelming, and thereby empower more farmers to complete retailer applications for federal nutrition assistance programs. 

    The Agriculture Law Education Initiative, partnering with the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, and the University of Maryland Extension SNAP-Ed Program, will educate service providers about the complexities of the nutrition assistance programs, equip them with detailed lesson plans to help them successfully shepherd farmers through the process of identifying which program(s) a grower may be an eligible retailers for, what information and steps are needed to successfully apply, what marketing strategies farmers can employ to attract benefits shoppers, and who they can contact for peer advice and technical assistance.

    Performance targets from proposal:


    Forty (40) agricultural service providers will provide education and assistance to fifty (50) farmers on how to apply for and accept federal nutrition assistance program payments, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Fruit and Vegetable Benefit Program (WIC-FVB) and Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) for Seniors and WIC participants. 

    Twenty (20) of the farmers take the steps necessary (completing and submitting applications) to accept payments from one or more new forms of federal nutrition assistance programs.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.