U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Analysis of Budgets, Fiscal Years 1999-2000

RCED-99-201R: Published: Jun 17, 1999. Publicly Released: Jun 17, 1999.

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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.

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