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Highlights

While tens of thousands of manufacturing workers have received services through the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, until 2002, farmers and fishermen impacted by imports did not have access to similar assistance. The Trade Act of 2002 (Trade Act) established a new program, TAA for Farmers, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide technical assistance, a cash payment of up to $10,000 a year, and access to Department of Labor (Labor) training and reemployment services for farmers and fishermen who face significant price declines due to increased imports. The Trade Act provides for up to $90 million each year through fiscal year 2007 for the costs to carry out the program. Trade Act programs are due for reauthorization in 2007. To be eligible for benefits, farmers and fishermen--called producers--must complete a two-part process each year. First, a group of producers of a commodity must submit a petition to USDA on behalf of all producers in one or more states. The petition must demonstrate that the price of the commodity for the most recent marketing year declined by at least 20 percent from the average price for the previous 5 years and that imports contributed importantly to the decline in price. If USDA certifies the petition, any producer of that commodity in the region covered by the petition may then apply for benefits under the program. Individual producers must meet additional conditions to receive cash payments. For example, their net farm or fishing income must be less in the petition year than it was in the previous year. The TAA for Farmers program was first authorized in 2002, and no comprehensive review has been completed to guide reauthorizing the program. To help prepare for reauthorization, you asked us to assess the status of implementation of the TAA for Farmers program. Specifically, we examined: (1) how the USDA promotes the TAA for Farmers program and the extent to which the agency has received and certified petitions from producers, (2) the extent to which participants have received benefits, including technical assistance and cash payments, and (3) what is known about the results of the program.

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