ST. PAUL, Minn. — A grocery trade group has asked the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to block disclosure of annual food stamp revenues for stores participating in the federal program.

The Argus Leader reports a Food Marketing Institute lawyer told a three-judge panel Wednesday that releasing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program information would cause competitive harm.

The group appealed a judge’s 2016 ruling that the sales figures through the program are public records. They appealed after the program’s administrator, the U.S. Agriculture Department, declined to do so in the Argus Leader newspaper’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Gavin Villareal, a Food Marketing Institute attorney, says the numbers could be used to determine a store’s total sales. Newspaper lawyer Jon Arneson says there’s no way to know the percentage of a store’s overall sales that come from the program.

Information from: Argus Leader,