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Farmers receive about $20 billion annually in federal farm program payments, which go to individuals and "entities," including corporations, partnerships, and estates. Under certain conditions, estates may receive payments for the first 2 years after an individual's death. For later years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must determine that the estate is not being kept open primarily to receive farm program payments. This testimony is based on GAO's report, Federal Farm Programs: USDA Needs to Strengthen Controls to Prevent Improper Payments to Estates and Deceased Individuals (GAO-07-818, July 9, 2007). GAO discusses the extent to which USDA (1) follows its regulations that are intended to provide reasonable assurance that farm program payments go only to eligible estates and (2) makes improper payments to deceased individuals.

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