Farm Bill:

Issues to Consider for Reauthorization

GAO-12-338SP: Published: Apr 24, 2012. Publicly Released: Apr 24, 2012.

Additional Materials:


Lisa R. Shames
(202) 512-3841


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) seek to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the federal government. As Congress debates ways to address the federal government’s long-term fiscal imbalance, it becomes even more critical that we help with this challenge by identifying opportunities for cost-savings and for improving programs to ensure that every dollar counts.

In this spirit and in anticipation of upcoming deliberations over the 2012 Farm Bill, we are issuing companion reports today. They present the following set of principles significant to the integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness of programs in the farm bill:

  • Relevance. Does the program concern an issue of national interest? Is the program consistent with current statutes and international agreements? Have the domestic and international food and agriculture sectors changed significantly, or are they expected to change, in ways that affect the program’s purpose?

  • Distinctiveness. Is the program unique and free from overlap or duplication with other programs? Is it well-coordinated with similar programs?

  • Targeting. Is the program’s distribution of benefits consistent with contemporary assessments of need?

  • Affordability. Is the program affordable, given the nation’s severe budgetary constraints? Is it using the most efficient, cost-effective approaches?

  • Effectiveness. Are program goals clear, with a direct connection to policies, resource allocations, and actions? Does the program demonstrate measurable progress toward its goals? Is it generally free of unintended consequences, including ecological, social, or economic effects? Does the program allow for adjustments to changes in markets?

  • Oversight. Does the program have mechanisms, such as internal controls, to monitor compliance and help minimize fraud, waste, and abuse in areas where these are most likely to occur?

In the context of these principles, our reports summarize key GAO and OIG findings, respectively, related to farm bill programs. The principles could guide consideration of each program and potential program, and the summaries could help Congress make well-informed decisions about program design while continuing to maintain a strong agricultural sector and the safety and security of the nation’s food supply and to provide nutrition assistance, promote U.S. exports, support renewable energy and conservation, and enhance economic growth in rural communities.

For more information, contact Lisa Shames, Director, Natural Resources and Environment, at (202) 512-3841 or

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