Request for Information: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Retailer Transaction Data, 45175-45176 [2014-18288]

Download as PDF 45175 Notices Federal Register Vol. 79, No. 149 Monday, August 4, 2014 This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings and investigations, committee meetings, agency decisions and rulings, delegations of authority, filing of petitions and applications and agency statements of organization and functions are examples of documents appearing in this section. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Food and Nutrition Service Request for Information: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Retailer Transaction Data Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), USDA. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: In light of a recent court decision regarding the availability of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailer transaction data to the public, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is issuing this Request for Information to help inform FNS’ response to the recent court decision and any future policy changes regarding the release of SNAP retailer transaction data. In moving forward, USDA is interested in providing greater transparency. However, the Department also recognizes that any movement in this arena needs to be done carefully, after considering potential consequences and the views of the variety of stakeholders. As a result, this notice requests information from any and all interested parties, with a particular focus on current and former SNAP authorized retailers, as to whether the disclosure of aggregated SNAP redemption data at the individual store level would improve the administration and enforcement of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (the Act) and whether such data is confidential business information. Background: Section 9(c) of the Act, 7 U.S.C. 2018(c), limits the use or disclosure of information received from applicant and participating SNAP retailers. Use and disclosure of such information is limited to purposes directly connected with the administration and enforcement of the Act, or the regulations issued pursuant to the Act, with limited exceptions for law enforcement and use by the Special tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:28 Aug 01, 2014 Jkt 232001 Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Section 9(c) imposes criminal penalties for disclosure of such information in a manner not authorized by Federal law or regulation. Throughout the history of the Program, Section 9(c) of the Act has been interpreted as a withholding statute that includes SNAP retailer redemption information. On September 22, 1978, FNS published a final rule codifying the interpretation that Section 9(c) prohibited the use or disclosure of ‘‘information furnished by firms, including . . . their redemptions of coupons, . . . except for purposes directly connected with the administration and enforcement of Food Stamp Act and these regulations.’’ 43 FR. 43,272, 43,275 (Sept. 22, 1978) (currently codified at 7 CFR 278.1(q)). FNS has operated in accordance with its interpretation of the Act and FNS regulations that the Secretary did not have authority to release this information. However, South Dakota’s Argus Leader newspaper challenged this interpretation of the Act. In February of 2011, through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Argus Leader requested annual SNAP retailer redemption data for all SNAP authorized retailers for the six-year period spanning from 2005 through 2010. Though the initial FNS decision to withhold this data was upheld by the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota, on January 28, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued an opinion in favor of Argus Leader. The appeals court opinion contended that SNAP retailer redemption information did not fall within the withholding contemplated by Section 9(c) of the Act and therefore such information was not exempt from disclosure under Exemption 3 of FOIA. The Eighth Circuit decision did not address Exemption 4 of FOIA, 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4), which exempts ‘‘trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential’’ from release under FOIA. FNS recognizes that, despite the decision on Section 9(c) of the Act, the Agency must also consider whether this redemption data constitutes confidential business information. To make a determination in this regard, FNS is required to solicit feedback from the PO 00000 Frm 00001 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 submitters of the retailer transaction data. Request for Information: FNS’ objective is twofold: (1) To meet FNS’ obligations to solicit feedback from the submitters of retailer transaction data which is the subject of the litigation described above; and (2) to determine how to provide greater transparency, while remaining consistent with our legal obligations and reflecting input from the public. FNS will use this public input to inform FNS’ response to the court decision and consideration of what, if any, adjustments should be made to SNAP regulations in the future. It is FNS’ intent that any regulatory changes would govern the availability of data after the effective date of those regulations, and not be retroactive. FNS is seeking public input on the following questions: 1. Are aggregated annual SNAP redemption data at the individual store level confidential business information? If yes, please explain why the disclosure is likely to cause substantial competitive harm and fully explain all other grounds upon which you oppose the disclosure of such information. Also, please indicate whether the size of the retailer affects any identified competitive harm. 2. Are aggregated monthly SNAP redemption data at the individual store level confidential business information? If yes, please explain why the disclosure is likely to cause substantial competitive harm and fully explain all other grounds upon which you oppose the disclosure of such information. Also, please indicate whether the size of the retailer affects any identified competitive harm. 3. Should aggregated annual SNAP redemption data at the individual store level be released for transparency purposes? • If yes, describe in detail why this data should be released for the purposes of transparency and public accountability, and specifically how this data would assist in the administration of the Food and Nutrition Act. • If no, please provide details as to how release of this data would be counter to the administration and enforcement provisions of the Act. • When considering the impact of the release of this data on the administration and enforcement provisions of the Act, please consider the effect, if any, on SNAP recipients. 4. Should aggregated monthly SNAP redemption data at the individual store E:\FR\FM\04AUN1.SGM 04AUN1 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 45176 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 149 / Monday, August 4, 2014 / Notices level be released for transparency purposes? • If yes, describe in detail why this data should be released for the purposes of transparency and public accountability, and specifically how this data would assist in the administration of the Food and Nutrition Act. • If no, please provide details as to how release of this data would be counter to the administration and enforcement provisions of the Act. • When considering the impact of the release of this data on the administration and enforcement provisions of the Act, please consider the effect, if any, on SNAP recipients. 5. For each of the above questions, how would answers differ if the monthly or annual aggregated data were for a retailer’s aggregated sales at all stores within a state or nationally, as opposed to per-store data? Should any other aggregations be considered? Commenters who were SNAPauthorized retailers from 2005 through 2010 should make that fact clear in their comments. DATES: To be assured of consideration, written comments must be submitted on or before September 8, 2014. ADDRESSES: Comments must be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments electronically. All comments submitted in response to this notice will be included in the record and will be made available to the public at www.regulations.gov. Please be advised that the substance of the comments, including any personal or confidential business information, and the identity of the individuals or entities commenting will be subject to public disclosure. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Vicky T. Robinson, Acting Chief, Retailer Management and Issuance Branch, Food and Nutrition Service, (703) 305–2476. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: At the end of fiscal year (FY) 2013, over 250,000 retailers were authorized to redeem SNAP benefits. According to the FY 2013 data, 82 percent of all benefits redeemed were redeemed at supermarkets, large grocers and superstores. Approximately 18 percent of benefits were redeemed at smaller stores, including convenience stores, small grocers and farmers’ markets. Less than one percent were redeemed by authorized treatment programs, group homes, homeless meal providers, communal dining facilities and shelters as provided for in statute. A 2009 FNS VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:28 Aug 01, 2014 Jkt 232001 study on benefit use indicates that 96.3 percent of all SNAP beneficiaries shopped at supermarkets or superstores at least once each month. Dated: July 28, 2014. Audrey Rowe, Administrator, Food and Nutrition Service. [FR Doc. 2014–18288 Filed 8–1–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–30–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE National Institute of Food and Agriculture Request for Public Comments on Proposed Collection of Information National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA. ACTION: Request for Public Comments on Proposed Collection of Information. AGENCY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35, as amended) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) implementing regulations (5 CFR part 1320), this notice announces the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) proposed collection of information for the application for Non-Land Grant College of Agriculture designation. NIFA intends to submit the following information collection request to OMB for review and approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act. DATES: Written comments should be submitted by October 3, 2014, to be assured of consideration. Comments received after that date will be considered to the extent practicable. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by the docket number by any of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov, docket number NIFA–2014–0002. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. • Email: rmartin@nifa.usda.gov. Include the docket number in the subject line of the message. • Fax: 202–720–0857. • Mail: Robert Martin, Records Officer, Office of Information Technology (OIT), NIFA, USDA, STOP 2216, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250–2216. • Hand Delivery/Courier: Office of Information Technology (OIT), National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, 800 9th Street SW., STOP 2201 Washington, DC 20250–2201. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Martin, Records Officer; Email: rmartin@nifa.usda.gov. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Title: Application for Non-Land Grant College of Agriculture certification. OMB Number: 0524—New. Type of Request: Notice; Request for Public Comments on Proposed Collection of Information. Abstract: NIFA is responsible for designating Non-Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture (NLGCAs). Section 7101 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Pub. L. 113–79) required NIFA to establish an ongoing process allowing public colleges and universities that offer 4year or higher degrees in the food and agricultural sciences to apply for designation as NLGCA Institutions. For additional information see ‘‘Process for Non-Land Grant College of Agriculture (NLGCA) Designation’’ 79 FR 29398 (May 22, 2014). Type of Information Collection: NIFA will collect this information through web-based data collection. Institutions seeking designation as a NLGCA will submit requested information about their institution through a web-based form. The information collected from each institution will allow NIFA to verify that the institution is a public college or university, offers a baccalaureate or higher degree in food and agricultural sciences, as defined in 7 U.S.C. 3103(9), and is not otherwise ineligible to be designated as an NLGCA. Frequency: Institutions seeking designation as an NLGCA must apply one time. Their designation will be valid until September 30, 2018. Upon expiration of their designation, reapplication may be required. Affected Public: Institutions that meet the criteria for NLGCA designation; public colleges and universities that offer 4-year or higher degrees in the food and agricultural sciences. Estimate of Burden: NIFA estimates that the time required to complete the web-based application form will be approximately 15 minutes. The information that is required includes minimal information about the institution. The total annual burden for the application to request designation as a NLGCA is 18.75 hours for a projected 75 applicants. Comment Request: Comments are invited on whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Agency, including whether the information will have practical utility; the accuracy of the Agency’s estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information; ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways to minimize the E:\FR\FM\04AUN1.SGM 04AUN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 149 (Monday, August 4, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 45175-45176]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-18288]


========================================================================
Notices
                                                Federal Register
________________________________________________________________________

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules 
or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings 
and investigations, committee meetings, agency decisions and rulings, 
delegations of authority, filing of petitions and applications and agency 
statements of organization and functions are examples of documents 
appearing in this section.

========================================================================


Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 149 / Monday, August 4, 2014 / 
Notices

[[Page 45175]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food and Nutrition Service


Request for Information: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance 
Program (SNAP); Retailer Transaction Data

AGENCY: Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), USDA.

ACTION: Notice.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: In light of a recent court decision regarding the availability 
of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailer 
transaction data to the public, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service 
(FNS) is issuing this Request for Information to help inform FNS' 
response to the recent court decision and any future policy changes 
regarding the release of SNAP retailer transaction data. In moving 
forward, USDA is interested in providing greater transparency. However, 
the Department also recognizes that any movement in this arena needs to 
be done carefully, after considering potential consequences and the 
views of the variety of stakeholders. As a result, this notice requests 
information from any and all interested parties, with a particular 
focus on current and former SNAP authorized retailers, as to whether 
the disclosure of aggregated SNAP redemption data at the individual 
store level would improve the administration and enforcement of the 
Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (the Act) and whether such data is 
confidential business information.
    Background: Section 9(c) of the Act, 7 U.S.C. 2018(c), limits the 
use or disclosure of information received from applicant and 
participating SNAP retailers. Use and disclosure of such information is 
limited to purposes directly connected with the administration and 
enforcement of the Act, or the regulations issued pursuant to the Act, 
with limited exceptions for law enforcement and use by the Special 
Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. 
Section 9(c) imposes criminal penalties for disclosure of such 
information in a manner not authorized by Federal law or regulation.
    Throughout the history of the Program, Section 9(c) of the Act has 
been interpreted as a withholding statute that includes SNAP retailer 
redemption information. On September 22, 1978, FNS published a final 
rule codifying the interpretation that Section 9(c) prohibited the use 
or disclosure of ``information furnished by firms, including . . . 
their redemptions of coupons, . . . except for purposes directly 
connected with the administration and enforcement of Food Stamp Act and 
these regulations.'' 43 FR. 43,272, 43,275 (Sept. 22, 1978) (currently 
codified at 7 CFR 278.1(q)). FNS has operated in accordance with its 
interpretation of the Act and FNS regulations that the Secretary did 
not have authority to release this information.
    However, South Dakota's Argus Leader newspaper challenged this 
interpretation of the Act. In February of 2011, through the Freedom of 
Information Act (FOIA), the Argus Leader requested annual SNAP retailer 
redemption data for all SNAP authorized retailers for the six-year 
period spanning from 2005 through 2010. Though the initial FNS decision 
to withhold this data was upheld by the U.S. District Court for the 
District of South Dakota, on January 28, 2014, the U.S. Court of 
Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued an opinion in favor of Argus 
Leader. The appeals court opinion contended that SNAP retailer 
redemption information did not fall within the withholding contemplated 
by Section 9(c) of the Act and therefore such information was not 
exempt from disclosure under Exemption 3 of FOIA.
    The Eighth Circuit decision did not address Exemption 4 of FOIA, 5 
U.S.C. 552(b)(4), which exempts ``trade secrets and commercial or 
financial information obtained from a person and privileged or 
confidential'' from release under FOIA. FNS recognizes that, despite 
the decision on Section 9(c) of the Act, the Agency must also consider 
whether this redemption data constitutes confidential business 
information. To make a determination in this regard, FNS is required to 
solicit feedback from the submitters of the retailer transaction data.
    Request for Information: FNS' objective is twofold: (1) To meet 
FNS' obligations to solicit feedback from the submitters of retailer 
transaction data which is the subject of the litigation described 
above; and (2) to determine how to provide greater transparency, while 
remaining consistent with our legal obligations and reflecting input 
from the public. FNS will use this public input to inform FNS' response 
to the court decision and consideration of what, if any, adjustments 
should be made to SNAP regulations in the future. It is FNS' intent 
that any regulatory changes would govern the availability of data after 
the effective date of those regulations, and not be retroactive. FNS is 
seeking public input on the following questions:
    1. Are aggregated annual SNAP redemption data at the individual 
store level confidential business information? If yes, please explain 
why the disclosure is likely to cause substantial competitive harm and 
fully explain all other grounds upon which you oppose the disclosure of 
such information. Also, please indicate whether the size of the 
retailer affects any identified competitive harm.
    2. Are aggregated monthly SNAP redemption data at the individual 
store level confidential business information? If yes, please explain 
why the disclosure is likely to cause substantial competitive harm and 
fully explain all other grounds upon which you oppose the disclosure of 
such information. Also, please indicate whether the size of the 
retailer affects any identified competitive harm.
    3. Should aggregated annual SNAP redemption data at the individual 
store level be released for transparency purposes?
     If yes, describe in detail why this data should be 
released for the purposes of transparency and public accountability, 
and specifically how this data would assist in the administration of 
the Food and Nutrition Act.
     If no, please provide details as to how release of this 
data would be counter to the administration and enforcement provisions 
of the Act.
     When considering the impact of the release of this data on 
the administration and enforcement provisions of the Act, please 
consider the effect, if any, on SNAP recipients.
    4. Should aggregated monthly SNAP redemption data at the individual 
store

[[Page 45176]]

level be released for transparency purposes?
     If yes, describe in detail why this data should be 
released for the purposes of transparency and public accountability, 
and specifically how this data would assist in the administration of 
the Food and Nutrition Act.
     If no, please provide details as to how release of this 
data would be counter to the administration and enforcement provisions 
of the Act.
     When considering the impact of the release of this data on 
the administration and enforcement provisions of the Act, please 
consider the effect, if any, on SNAP recipients.
    5. For each of the above questions, how would answers differ if the 
monthly or annual aggregated data were for a retailer's aggregated 
sales at all stores within a state or nationally, as opposed to per-
store data? Should any other aggregations be considered?
    Commenters who were SNAP-authorized retailers from 2005 through 
2010 should make that fact clear in their comments.

DATES: To be assured of consideration, written comments must be 
submitted on or before September 8, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Comments must be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking 
Portal at www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for 
submitting comments electronically.
    All comments submitted in response to this notice will be included 
in the record and will be made available to the public at 
www.regulations.gov. Please be advised that the substance of the 
comments, including any personal or confidential business information, 
and the identity of the individuals or entities commenting will be 
subject to public disclosure.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Vicky T. Robinson, Acting Chief, 
Retailer Management and Issuance Branch, Food and Nutrition Service, 
(703) 305-2476.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: At the end of fiscal year (FY) 2013, over 
250,000 retailers were authorized to redeem SNAP benefits. According to 
the FY 2013 data, 82 percent of all benefits redeemed were redeemed at 
supermarkets, large grocers and superstores. Approximately 18 percent 
of benefits were redeemed at smaller stores, including convenience 
stores, small grocers and farmers' markets. Less than one percent were 
redeemed by authorized treatment programs, group homes, homeless meal 
providers, communal dining facilities and shelters as provided for in 
statute. A 2009 FNS study on benefit use indicates that 96.3 percent of 
all SNAP beneficiaries shopped at supermarkets or superstores at least 
once each month.

    Dated: July 28, 2014.
Audrey Rowe,
Administrator, Food and Nutrition Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-18288 Filed 8-1-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-30-P