Alting: Farmers’ markets could go high-tech

INDIANAPOLIS, Inc. — Hoosier consumers could soon use debit, credit and food stamp cards to purchase locally-grown produce and other goods at farmers’ markets.

A Senate panel on Commerce, Public Policy and Interstate Cooperation – chaired by State Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette) – unanimously approved a measure today that would provide wireless point-of-sale terminals to vendors at farmers’ markets.

Terminals would allow for consumers at farmers’ markets to use debit, credit and Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards – an identification card used by food stamp recipients who transfer government benefits from a Federal account to a retailer account to pay for products.

Indiana’s Division of Family Resources (DFR) – a state administration overseeing financial and child care assistance, food stamps, employment and training services for low-income clients – would provide the terminals to the more than 120 markets throughout the state.

Alting said he sees the measure benefiting food stamp recipients, consumers and vendors selling goods at markets.

“Providing various payment options at farmer’s markets could increase the number of patrons frequenting the market, therefore making it more profitable for vendors,” Alting said. “In addition to making it more convenient to purchase items, low-income Hoosiers using food stamps to feed their family could also participate in the markets, support the local economy and purchase healthy foods.”

According to Alting, a large market in Bloomington where consumers can purchase items with food stamp, credit and debit cards is thriving in-part because of the convenience provided by the wireless point-of-sale terminals. In its second year of using terminals, market vendors sold more than $2,100 in card transactions during just eight months.

Alting said in other states like Iowa, vendors purchased and rented equipment or used terminals provided by a contractor. Through the Iowa Wireless Project, farmers were initially reimbursed for a portion of the monthly fees associated with equipment. Iowa vendors made such a large profit due to increased traffic that reimbursements for equipment were discontinued.

“Hopefully the convenience offered at high-tech farmers’ markets will provoke more Hoosiers to purchase healthy, fresh and locally-grown products,” Alting said.

Alting expects House Bill 1535 will now be considered by the full Senate.

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