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Court orders release of food stamp data

food-stampsIn 2013, South Dakota-based newspaper Argus Leader requested information from the USDA on how much the agency paid out in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds to individual retailers. The Obama administration argued against the release of this data fearing privacy concerns of the retailer and food stamp recipient. Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit  overturned  the decision to keep the data secret, ruling in favor of the Freedom of Information Act request.

The federal food stamp program has been under attack by conservative Republican groups and lawmakers over its growing costs and the perception of fraud. However, the goal of the lawsuit according to Jon Arneson, an attorney for Argus Leader, was simply information. “What we’re simply asking for is how are the tax dollars spent. We’re not trying to invade the privacy of the recipient households,” said Arneson.

In the nine-page ruling the judges called the food stamp program “one of America’s largest and growing welfare arrangements” and that “Between 2007 and 2011, spending more than doubled . . . from about $30 billion to $72 billion.”

Fraud was also indicated in that the USDA noted that 10 percent of retailers engaged in the illegal buying and selling of food stamps for cash. Two of the three judges who heard the case were appointed by Bush and one by Obama.