Decisionmaking Process for Farm Program Policies Needs To Be Improved

RCED-85-81: Published: Jun 4, 1985. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1985.

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GAO reviewed the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service's (ASCS) policy decision to defer the repayment of certain commodity advance deficiency payments.

ASCS revised the refund policy to: (1) correct a problem it encountered in administering farm commodity programs at county offices; and (2) provide an additional enrollment incentive for the 1984 corn program. GAO found that: (1) ASCS made the decision to revise the policy without a prior review by the Department of Agriculture (USDA); (2) there was little programmatic analysis to support the decision to revise the policy; (3) one county office sent premature demand letters to producers for refunds of 1983 advance commodity deficiency payments prior to the end of the marketing year; and (4) ASCS did not analyze the extent to which the revised collection policy was expected to increase program participation. GAO also found that: (1) the revised policy caused the government to incur additional interest costs because it did not notify producers that interest would be charged during the deferral period; and (2) organizational units within ASCS should have fully addressed and resolved the issues surrounding the deferral decision prior to deciding on a policy revision.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In oral comments, USDA disagreed with the need for the recommended action.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should require the Administrator, ASCS, to issue administrative notices to ASCS handbooks to reinforce the need for staff compliance with existing procedures requiring that policy decisions be fully documented, analyzed, reviewed, and approved by affected organizational units within ASCS prior to implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In oral comments, USDA disagreed with the need for the recommended action.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should require the Administrator, ASCS, to amend ASCS handbooks to specifically require that policy and program changes having potential legal constraints or impacts be fully reviewed and approved by the USDA Office of General Counsel prior to implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In oral comments, USDA disagreed with the need for the recommended action.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should require the Administrator, ASCS, to issue an administrative notice to ASCS handbooks to reinforce the need for staff compliance with existing procedures requiring that Office of General Counsel memorandums on the legal aspects of a policy or program accompany Commodity Credit Corporation dockets and board memorandums.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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