CLEVELAND, OH — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and a top official from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) visited the West Side Market today to announce a federal grant to help market vendors increase their sales by accepting credit, debit, and EBT cards. Brown and Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe announced $161,359 for Ohio farmers and vendors to use wireless technology to sell more produce and goods to consumers. The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) will implement the program at markets across the state, and markets can apply directly to ODJFS for funding.

“Every year, thousands of Clevelanders come to the West Side Market to buy fresh produce, a good meal, and other locally-grown and locally-made food for their families. Now in its hundredth year, the market is stronger than ever, but many of the farmers and vendors could expand their business with new technology,” Brown said. “The reality is, we’re a society that relies more and more on credit and debit cards, and less so on cash. This new federal funding will help more local vendors at places like the West Side Market increase their profits by implementing cutting-edge wireless technology to accept credit, debit, and EBT cards.”

“We’re excited to have this opportunity to improve opportunities for low-income individuals to obtain nutritious foods and to support local farmers,” said USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe. “SNAP participation at farmers' markets helps provide fresh fruit and vegetables to families and expands the customer base for local farmers—a win-win for agriculture and local communities.”

According to ODJFS, Ohio markets can choose any wireless Point-of-Service (POS) vendor that accepts EBT transactions and can choose from two funding options. Under the first option, a market can purchase the wireless device, and be reimbursed the cost of the device, the necessary one-time activation fee(s), and one month of wireless service up to a maximum amount of $1,100. A market may also lease the wireless POS device, and be reimbursed the amount of the lease, the necessary one-time activation fee(s), and at least three months of wireless service, up to a maximum of $500.

Brown and Rowe were joined by a West Side Market vendor, David Divoky, who began accepting credit card payments last fall and EBT payments approximately three months ago. The use of wireless technology has helped increase the profits of the Geauga County farm, Maple Valley Sugarbush & Farm, that he owns with his wife Donna.

Brown also outlined provisions included in the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act— also known as the 2012 Farm Bill, which was recently passed by the Senate—that would expand farmers markets and other direct marketing opportunities for farmers, expedite adoption of wireless technologies at farmers markets, and increase the availability of nutritious, locally-grown foods to all Ohioans.  The bill also includes a stronger crop insurance program for specialty crops and organic agriculture. Many of these provisions were proposed in Brown’s Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, a bill to help Ohio farmers and ranchers sell their products directly to consumers and create jobs by addressing production, aggregation, and marketing and distribution needs.