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Simon announces expanded eligibility for Link grants to farmers and markets 

 
Federal dollars will fund free wireless Link, debit machines

SPRINGFIELD – August 1, 2013. As chair of the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today announced expanded eligibility and a new application deadline for federal funding that will pay for wireless machines that accept debit, credit and Link cards.

In addition to farmers’ markets, direct marketing farmers are now eligible for the Illinois Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Wireless Project. Applications are being accepted by the Illinois Department of Agriculture today through Aug. 30.

“It is important for all Illinois residents to have access to fresh, locally-grown produce, and this federal funding should help us reach more families around the state,” Simon said. “I encourage farmers and markets to apply for the grants before August 30 and make it easier for residents to eat healthy.”

Direct marketing farmers are defined as individual producers of agricultural products -- such as fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy or grains -- that are sold to the public at a farmers’ market that does not accept Link cards, the program by which Illinoisans access federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits.
 
The EBT Wireless Project is funded by a grant of $178,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and aims to expand access to fresh food for low-income residents and increase the sale of locally-grown food across the state. The grant reimburses farmers and markets for the purchase of a wireless machine, terminal setup fees and SNAP wireless fees, but not transaction fees.

Selected project participants will be provided with community kits developed by the Lt. Governor’s office and the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which will include training and promotional materials. The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) is also involved in administering the program while Experimental Station, a Chicago non-profit, and the Illinois Farmers Market Association will assist with training and the development of promotional materials. 

Simon noted that farmers markets and direct marketing farmers who want to accept SNAP benefits can go another route if they see the potential for high-volume sales. DHS is now offering free wireless terminals to farmers markets and direct marketing farmers that accept Link cards, but cannot be used for debit or credit cards. To be eligible, the sellers must be Food and Nutrition Service-certified, average $100 per month in Link transactions and use the wireless machine only for Link transactions.

To determine which Link program is the best fit or to apply for the Illinois Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Wireless Project, click here, visit www.agr.state.il.us or call 217-524-9129.