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The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that pits the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) against the Argus Leader, a Gannett-owned South Dakota newspaper that has argued that it - and, by extension, its readers - have a right to know how much federal food stamp money goes to the nation’s retailers.

The Argus Leader sued to get the information, denied to it by the federal government, back in 2011; FMI argued that to make that information public would be to give away proprietary competitive information that could hurt its member retailers.

The Argus Leader won its case last year in the , the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, but FMI successfully persuaded the Supreme Court to hear a final appeal. The case is Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media.

Commenting on the Supreme Court decision, FMI president/CEO Leslie Sarasin said, “We are delighted that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear our appeal in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media. 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.”

However, the Argus Leader continues to maintain that it “is seeking records of taxpayer payments and not confidential business records,” and suggests that “FMI argues that businesses should decide what constitutes confidential information.”
KC's View:
I’m afraid I part ways with FMI on this. As a taxpayer, I think I’d like to know which retailers are the greatest beneficiaries of the food stamp system … and, quite frankly, I’d kind of like to know what the retailers and their trade association would rather not be a matter of public record.

Nobody would be surprised if Walmart is a major beneficiary. But what if we found out that, say, Whole Foods was? That was would be interesting … and not exactly worth keeping a secret.

I always get twitchy when this kind of transparency is resisted.