Commodity Programs:

Freedom-to-Farm Approach Will Reduce USDA's Personnel Costs

RCED-96-116: Published: May 22, 1996. Publicly Released: May 22, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the personnel reductions that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) could have achieved if Congress had implemented the freedom-to-farm provisions of H.R. 2195 and the proposed Balanced Budget Act.

GAO noted that: (1) under H.R. 2195, the freedom-to-farm provisions would have reduced the Farm Service Agency's (FSA) personnel by 1,823 staff years and saved approximately $332 million; (2) most of the personnel savings under H.R. 2195 would have occurred at the county level and would affect such program activities as commodity payment, record keeping, compliance, and reimbursable farm-measurement; (3) the proposed Balanced Budget Act would have achieved greater personnel savings than H.R. 2195 because it included changes not addressed by H.R. 2195; (4) personnel reductions under the proposed Balanced Budget Act would have decreased FSA staff by 13 percent, a net reduction of 2,719 staff years; (5) the Balanced Budget Act would have had the net effect of reducing FSA workload by 896 staff years; (6) as a result of the personnel reductions, USDA would have incurred separation costs of $28 million for a workload of 126 staff years; (7) these costs would have lowered USDA net savings to $304 million; and (8) the Balanced Budget Act would also afford USDA additional organizational changes, more savings, and an opportunity to focus on how it delivers its services.

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