The Food Marketing Institute is involved in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court to protect private businesses from disclosing information.

Arlington, Virginia-based FMI is a named party in the case, defending the food retail industry’s right to compete on a level playing field and its ability to serve a customer base as diverse as America’s palate, while encouraging appropriate governmental transparency, according to the group.

The issue before the Court in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media is whether Exemption 4 to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) protects from mandatory disclosure store-level Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) redemption data.

“FMI intervened in this case on appeal to argue that store-level SNAP redemption data constitutes confidential business information and is therefore exempt from disclosure under FOIA,” says Jennifer Hatcher, FMI’s chief public policy officer and senior vice president for government and public affairs. “We support FOIA and believe it is an important law that should be interpreted as written, but FOIA was not intended to open the books to a store’s confidential business information or impede the competitive landscape.”

“A substantial amount of SNAP data is already disclosed by month, state, county, and year. The opposition argues the information should be disclosed with even greater granularity, down to the store level.  Doing so would compromise years of work and research to site particular stores and provide an unfair competitive advantage to competitors who do not have brick-and-mortar stores in the area,” Hatcher says. “Once confidential business information such as this is made available, it sets a dangerous precedent and has the potential to upset the free market, giving competitors unfair and unequal access to competitive business data. We look forward to the Court hearing arguments regarding this important case on April 22.”