GAO Report Questions Farm Payments

Payments may have gone to ineligible recipients.

The General Accounting Office has released a report questioning some farm program payments made by USDA between 2003 and 2006. Apparently 2700 payments potentially went to producers ineligible under the adjusted gross income test.

Farm Service Agency Deputy Administrator John Johnson says that GAO did say that these potentially erroneous payments were a small percentage of the total number of farm program payments. Of the 1.8 million farm program payments paid, these represent 0.2%.

GAO had access to Internal Revenue Service information on individuals to prepare this report that USDA does not have access to.

"By law IRS has some privacy requirements in the law that they can not share that information with the Farm Service Agency," Johnson says. "So we are handicapped in that we can not do the work that GAO did in conducting this report."

Johnson says FSA will look at other ways to tighten up adjusted gross income rules pertaining to farm program payments.

"We have audit standards that were developed over 10 years ago," Johnson says. "The context at that time was under some payment limitation rules that have been changed by the 2008 Farm Bill. So we are going to go back and revisit those audit procedures and see if there is a way we can restructure and address some of the concerns we have found."

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