U.S. Department of Agriculture:
Analysis of Budgets, Fiscal Years 1999-2000
RCED-99-201R: Published: Jun 17, 1999. Publicly Released: Jun 17, 1999.
GAO provided information on the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) appropriation for fiscal year (FY) 1999 and its budget request for FY 2000 for selected programs and initiatives.
GAO noted that: (1) USDA could have about $1.7 billion in appropriated funds remaining unobligated at the end of FY 1999, some or all of which could be available for congressional rescission or as a reduction to the Department's FY 2000 appropriation request; (2) in April 1999, Department officials stated that by the end of FY 1999, USDA agencies would obligate much of the funds now shown as unobligated; (3) historically, the Department's budget projections that such funds would be obligated during the year often have not been realized; (4) the policy of some USDA agencies of estimating zero balances for year-end unobligated funds, even though some of the funds are expected to remain unobligated, appears to conflict with the Office of Management and Budget's guidance on estimating year-end unobligated balances; (5) some unobligated funds that are retained as contingencies against unanticipated expenses appear excessive; (6) the Risk Management Agency expects an unobligated balance of $1.4 billion for FY 1999, about 60 percent of that agency's FY 1999 obligations; (7) for FY 2000, USDA is requesting about $2.4 billion in additional funds for selected new initiatives and existing programs, some or all of which could be available for congressional reduction or deferral; (8) this amount includes an additional $900 million for a contingency reserve for the Food Stamp Program and an additional $500 million for an anticipated increase in the program's participants; (9) in April 1999, Department officials stated that the funding for these new initiatives and existing programs is justified and necessary; (10) however, this may not be the case; (11) for FY 1999, the Department requested $1 billion for the Food Stamp Contingency Reserve; (12) Congress disagreed with the size of the Department's request and chose to reduce the funding for the reserve to $100 million; and (13) although the Department is requesting $18.4 billion in benefit funding for the Food Stamp Program for FY 2000 based on its forecast of increased participation in the program, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that only $17.8 billion will be needed.