Roles, Cost, and Criteria for Assessing Agriculture Disaster Assistance Programs Between 1980 and 1988

T-RCED-89-63: Published: Sep 20, 1989. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 1989.

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GAO discussed the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) provision of agricultural disaster assistance since 1980. GAO noted that: (1) USDA spent about $6.9 billion for direct cash payments, $6.4 billion for disaster emergency loans, and $4.3 billion for crop insurance between fiscal years 1980 and 1988; (2) although Congress intended to alleviate the need for expensive, ad-hoc disaster assistance programs by expanding the crop insurance program in 1980, low participation rates necessitated continued use of direct payments and emergency loan programs; and (3) USDA may have spent more through its various assistance programs than it would have through only one program. GAO also noted that none of the programs met all of the criteria for equitable and efficient disaster assistance, involving: (1) assistance based on loss, not disaster severity; (2) provision of similar amounts of assistance for similar amounts of losses; (3) assistance limited to the amount of losses; (4) lack of incentives increasing the likelihood and extent of losses; (5) long-range planning; (6) aid focusing on recovery from the effects of natural disasters; (7) predictable annual costs; and (8) ability to meet objectives at the lowest possible cost.

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