Thursday, January 24, 2019

Supreme Court agrees to hear newspaper lawsuit over releasing SNAP (food stamps) income for grocers

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to rule whether the Department of Agriculture must reveal how much money grocers, gas stations and other retailers get from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often known by its old name, food stamps.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader filed suit in 2011 against the Food Marketing Institute, a retail trade lobby that argued such figures should be confidential records because their release would harm businesses' ability to compete with other retailers if released. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the figures should be public, but FMI persuaded a majority of Supreme Court justices to review that ruling, arguing that the Freedom of Information Act contains exemptions for some types of information, Jonathan Ellis reports for the Argus Leader.

"The exemption at issue in the FMI/Argus Leader case – exemption 4 – concerns sensitive trade secrets or confidential business records that, if released, would cause substantial competitive harm," Ellis reports. "FMI argues that businesses should decide what constitutes confidential information, and that lower courts have issued conflicting rulings about exemption 4." The Argus Leader has maintained that it wants records of taxpayer payments and not confidential business records.

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