“We are delighted that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear our appeal in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media,” said FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin. “It is a critically important case that will clarify the protections from disclosure applicable to confidential business information that private parties submit to the government. We are particularly grateful to the multiple organizations that filed amicus briefs in support of our petition. Such broad support demonstrates how the case’s significance extends far beyond the retail grocery industry.”
According to a report on Law 360, the lawsuit dates back to 2011, when the Argus Leader sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking data pertaining to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The newspaper said it was entitled to the data under the Freedom of Information Act. In November 2016, a North Dakota federal judge agreed with the newspaper and found it would not cause significant competitive harm to grocery stores participating in SNAP. FMI appealed on behalf of the USDA but the Eighth Circuit upheld the lower court’s ruling.
FMI claimed in its October 2018 petition that the Eighth Circuit ruling misunderstood the language of the FOIA statute and created “at least five different circuit splits,” according to the Law 360 report.
FMI argued that the SNAP information, which the grocers are required to provide to the government, is protected by FOIA’s Exemption Four, which bars the release of confidential “trade secrets and commercial or financial information.”
“Participating SNAP retailers jealously guard store-level SNAP data from competitors and hold such data highly confidential,” FMI said.
Based in Arlington, Virginia, FMI advocates on behalf of the food retail industry.