Agriculture:

Progress Made Toward Goals of 1985 Farm Bill

RCED-89-76BR: Published: Mar 30, 1989. Publicly Released: Apr 12, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the results of 1985 farm legislation, focusing on whether the law: (1) stabilized the financially stressed farm economy; (2) enhanced U.S. competitiveness as a supplier in world agricultural markets; and (3) prevented the buildup of large surplus stocks.

GAO found that: (1) most economic indicators had improved since 1985, but it was uncertain how much of the progress was attributable to the legislation and how much to other factors; (2) farmers' assets and equity began to increase in 1987 after a period of decline; (3) land values fell nationally between 1985 and 1987, but rose slightly in 1988; (4) farmers' net cash income has increased steadily since 1985, and farmers' debt burden has decreased since 1981; (5) total U.S. agricultural exports have increased since the law's enactment, and the U.S. share of world agricultural markets has rebounded for some crops; and (6) since the law's enactment, stock levels of surplus commodities have generally declined. GAO also found that the: (1) cost of price- and income-support and export programs increased from a total of about $44 billion during the last 3 full years under 1981 farm legislation, to an estimated $49 billion during the first 3 full years under the 1985 legislation; and (2) Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) substantially increased its staff levels to handle the greater work load caused by the 1985 legislation, but ASCS officials reported administrative difficulties.

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