International Trade:

Review of Effectiveness of FAS Cooperator Market Development Program

NSIAD-87-89: Published: Mar 17, 1987. Publicly Released: Mar 17, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the effectiveness of the cooperator programs that the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) implemented to develop, maintain, and expand foreign markets for U.S. agricultural commodities.

GAO found that FAS has: (1) allowed cooperators to implement numerous and varied long-term programs and has placed few restrictions on the funding a cooperator can receive for a program; (2) not established criteria to help cooperators focus on opportunities for market development or expansion; (3) not critically assessed program results; (4) failed to evaluate programs sufficiently to determine which market development activities were effective or which needed refinement or termination; (5) established guidelines that encourage, but do not require, cooperators to contribute annual amounts equal to FAS funds; and (6) defined cash, goods, and services contributions inaccurately, conveying the impression that cooperators participated more fully in financing marketing activities than they actually did.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency believes this has been done and FAS is in the process of writing regulations for a cooperator program which will probably address this.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FAS, to revise guidelines to define all program contributions based on the source of contribution, rather than on the type of asset contributed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Agency action on this recommendation will be included in GAO followup TEA work.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FAS, to continue efforts to measure program results to help determine the usefulness of activities under the cooperator programs. An area where efforts should be focused is the measurement of short-term performance against program objectives. For example, if a program is undertaken to raise consumer awareness about a certain U.S. agricultural product, it would be appropriate to measure the change in consumer attitudes when the program is completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Agency action on this recommendation will be included in GAO followup TEA work.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, FAS, should also consider establishing a transition program whereby FAS and cooperators equally share initial market development costs and, depending on the criteria established pursuant to the first recommendation, determine if and when cooperators will assume the larger share of program costs, and eventually assume total responsibility for specific market development activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Agency action on this recommendation will be included in GAO followup TEA work.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FAS, to clarify the cooperator program goal of developing, maintaining, or expanding U.S. markets. In doing so, FAS should consider establishing limits on total funding levels and time frames for individual cooperator programs and whether the preponderance of federal funds should be devoted to market maintenance or market development activities. In this connection, FAS should keep the appropriate congressional committees informed of, and seek their support for, its progress in clarifying the program goal.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Agency action on this recommendation will be included in GAO followup TEA work.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FAS, to determine the extent to which the program is receiving improper, inflated, or misleading reports on cooperator contributions and, if significant, to use its various reviews to enforce compliance with FAS criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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