Supreme Court hears food stamp data suit

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A South Dakota newspaper requested more information from the USDA about how SNAP benefits are spent and the legal battle over whether the information should be made public has dragged out for eight years.

Argus Leader made the request in 2011.

“It is a little bit surreal, and honestly, like a little bit disappointing right?” said Argus Leader News Director Cory Myers. The paper is seeking store sales data.

The information would show how much money stores like Walmart, grocery stores or convenience stores get from SNAP. 

The newspaper company says that if it gets the information the paper may be able to report on potential fraud with the SNAP system. But it won’t know if there is fraud unless there is access to the information.

The USDA did not release the information citing an exemption within the Freedom of Information Act.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the newspaper. The USDA decided not to appeal the case further, but a trade association, the Food Marketing Institute, appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The government vindicates our interests and has kept this information secret in order to protect the program and its participants,” Evan Young, an attorney with Food Marketing Institute said.

During oral arguments, Young told the justices information about SNAP recipients is confidential and includes protected trade secrets.

“Our members are competing against each other in order to be able to have the market of this customer,” Young said.

The Supreme Court is expected to reach a decision by the end of the term in June. 

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