On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research held a hearing to review the administration and management of contracts for the USDA conservation programs. The hearing focused on the importance of ensuring that USDA conservation programs are meeting the taxpayers' expectations for responsible management, accountability and assuring the wise use of tax dollars.
According to investigations conducted by the House Committee on Agriculture, the General Accounting Office and USDA's Office of Inspector General, USDA administration of conservation programs were found to be lacking the proper internal controls to prevent waste, fraud and abuse. Witnesses suggested that USDA management needs to cooperate with other government agencies to do more to ensure that duplicate and improper payments are not made.
"I hope USDA has learned from the results of these investigations and improves funding management," said Subcommittee Chair Tim Holden, D-Pa. "We have a responsibility to verify that USDA is not making improper payments, and we need NRCS and FSA to be good stewards of public money, so that in turn, we can continue to support farmers in being good stewards of the land."
Newly named NRCS Chief Dave White testified at the hearing and said that the problems are fixable and that work is being done to correct the situation.
"I'm going to commit to you that we are going to be open, we're going to be honest and we're going to be transparent as we go about fixing this thing," White said. "You can see the pictures of how we are transforming the landscape. Our challenge now is to bring our paperwork stuff up to snuff."