The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a rule that would force stores that accept food stamps to offer a wider array of food choices, potentially harming around 47,000 smaller stores that participate in the program.

On Feb. 16 the department announced a rule that would require Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-authorized retail establishments to offer seven varieties of foods in four staple food groups such as dairy, breads and cereals, meats, poultry and fish, and fruits and vegetables on a continuous basis. Stores would also be required to stock at least six units of each variety, meaning there would have to be at least 168 of the required foods at the store.

Big-box retailers such as Walmart would not be harmed by the rule like smaller stores, since they have higher amounts of inventory. For convenience stores like 7-Eleven, the rule would present a challenge to their business model due to limited space and more restricted supply chains.

“For small retailers there is limited space on shelves and coolers, and the proposed regulation would mandate that we have 168 single ingredient staple foods on display on shelves at all times,” explained Anna Ready, director of government relations at the National Association of Convenience Stores, a international trade association that represents more than 2,200 retail members.

“They changed the underlying definition of staple foods to exclude foods that have multiple ingredients so that a mixed fruit cup or can of chicken noodle soup could no longer be counted towards a retailer’s stocking requirements,” Ready said. “This is extremely onerous for small format retailers with limited storage space and it would be very costly to change supply and delivery, or even remodel a store, to comply with this.”

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