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Michigan Representatives Request Clarification of Governor’s Executive Order Regarding Access to SNAP Benefits

April 15, 2020
Press Release

Jackson, MI—U.S. Representatives Tim Walberg (MI-07), Jack Bergman (MI-01), Bill Huizenga (MI-02), John Moolenaar (MI-04), Fred Upton (MI-06), and Paul Mitchell (MI-10) sent a letter to Governor Whitmer requesting further clarification of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order (Executive Order 2020-42) as it pertains to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which low-income families rely on to put food on the table. Under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, SNAP benefits can be used to purchase seeds and plants to promote nutrition and the value of homegrown food. In Michigan, nearly 1.25 million people receive food assistance through this federal program.
 
“This past weekend multiple press reports alluded to a moratorium on the purchase of seeds and plants under Executive Order 2020-42. Specifically, concerns were raised about the mandated closure of businesses such as greenhouses and the closure of garden centers and plant sales within businesses larger than 50,000 square feet,” the lawmakers wrote. “Many of these businesses are SNAP-authorized retailers which consumers regularly depend on to purchase high quality seeds and plants to feed their families year-round. We request necessary clarification on Executive Order 2020-42 so all stores, regardless of size, can comply with allowing use of all SNAP benefits.
 
A copy of the letter is below and a PDF can be downloaded here.
 
Dear Governor Whitmer: 
 
As you well know, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is creating unprecedented challenges for our nation and the entire world. We recognize the challenges caused by COVID-19 require a strong, coordinated, response at the federal, state, and local levels to address concerns related to the health, safety, and economic well-being of all Michigan residents. With this in mind, we write to request further clarification, and if necessary, reconsideration, of Executive Order 2020-42 as it pertains to the purchase of goods from garden centers or plant nurseries.
 
Per Section 3(k)(2) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (as amended through P.L. 115–334), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can be used to purchase “seeds and plants for use in gardens to produce food for the personal consumption of the eligible household.” As you may know, these food sources are particularly important for low-income families. This past weekend multiple press reports alluded to a moratorium on the purchase of seeds and plants under Executive Order 2020-42. Specifically, concerns were raised about the mandated closure of businesses such as greenhouses and the closure of garden centers and plant sales within businesses larger than 50,000 square feet. Many of these businesses are SNAP-authorized retailers which consumers regularly depend on to purchase high quality seeds and plants to feed their families year-round. We request necessary clarification on Executive Order 2020-42 so all stores, regardless of size, can comply with allowing use of all SNAP benefits. 
 
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that every month, more than 19 million households use SNAP to get nutritious food. For every $1 dollar spent on seeds and fertilizer, home gardeners can grow an average of $25 worth of produce. Growing food from seeds and plants makes SNAP benefits last longer, allowing recipients to double the value of their benefits over time while promoting a more healthy diet. Supplementing SNAP with homegrown food makes it possible for families to buy food products that they wouldn’t normally be able to afford.
 
Being producers as well as consumers is an empowering experience for SNAP participants. It allows them to feel self-reliant. It is also another great way to promote nutrition, enabling people to take pride in eating their own homegrown fruits and vegetables.
 
While we continue the discussion on appropriate measures to prioritize the health and well-being of all Michigan citizens, we respectfully ask that you ensure all applicable SNAP-authorized retailers are permitted to continue selling these vital seeds and plants.

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