Department of Agriculture Should Have More Authority To Assess User Charges

CED-81-49: Published: Apr 16, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 16, 1981.

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The Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides a wide range of marketing and regulatory services. Marked differences exist in the degree to which recipients bear the costs of these services. As a result, certain sectors of the agricultural marketing industry are receiving preferential treatment at the taxpayers' expense.

If recipients were charged for all costs except those which can be readily identified with public benefits, the current inconsistencies and inequities would be eliminated and federal appropriations could be reduced. The Department could also realize substantial savings if it were to move to a system of periodic unannounced inspections at federally inspected meat and poultry processing plants and if the plants were required to have total in-plant quality control systems. Current inconsistencies and inequities in the Department's application of user charges are caused by differences in the legislative funding provisions covering individual programs and problems in implementing user charges under the so-called User Charge Statute (title V of the Independent Offices Appropriation Act) when no specific legislative authority exists.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should repeal the Tobacco Seed and Plant Exportation Act of 1940.

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should discontinue providing special appropriations to defray a portion of the supervision costs incurred in the poultry and fresh fruit and vegetable grading programs.

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should either amend the User Charge Statute or enact new general user charge legislation to make it clear that an agency may set fees to recover the full cost of a program that primarily benefits identifiable users.

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should amend the Warehouse Act to provide for user funding of periodic USDA examinations. The amendment should require recovery of all program costs.

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should amend the Grain Standards Act, the Cotton Statistics and Estimates Act of 1927, and the Tobacco Inspection Act of 1935 to delete provisions that require appropriations funding and/or limit the use of user charges.

  6. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should amend existing legislation to authorize USDA to charge importers fees which cover all costs of inspecting and testing imported birds (both commercial and pet) and other animals.

  7. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to require all federally inspected meat and poultry processing plants to develop and implement quality control systems.

  8. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should repeal the Naval Stores Act.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to charge user fees which cover the costs of phytosanitary inspections. The Administrator should do so either under the authority contained in the User Charge Statute or by seeking specific legislative authority.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct that an independent study be made to develop objective criteria for setting and adjusting fees charged for plant variety certifications. The study should determine how much of total program costs could be passed on to applicants without severely limiting participation by applicants with limited financial resources. The Secretary should then direct the Administrator of APHIS to set and periodically adjust the certification fee on the basis of these criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should determine whether inspections of imported seed required under the Seed Act primarily benefit the seed importers. If so, the Secretary should propose to Congress amendments to the Act which would authorize user fees for the inspections. Upon enactment of the amendments, the Secretary should direct the Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service to develop and implement a user charge.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct that a study be made to determine the cost effectiveness of a user fee system for the USDA-printed market news reports. The study should be independent, made by individuals who are not under the Assistant Secretary for Marketing and Transportation Services. If the study shows that the administrative problems can be resolved and that the administrative costs would not be excessive, the Secretary should implement a fee system. If not, the Secretary should forward the study to OMB for resolution of differences between USDA and Department of Commerce funding methods.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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