Farmers receive about $16 billion annually in federal farm program payments. These payments go to about 2 million recipients, both individuals and entities. GAO previously has reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not consistently ensure that these payments went only to those who meet eligibility requirements. GAO was asked to evaluate (1) how effectively USDA implemented 2002 Farm Bill provisions prohibiting payments to individuals or entities whose income exceeded $2.5 million and who derived less than 75 percent of that income from farming, ranching, or forestry operations, (2) the potential impact of the 2008 Farm Bill's income eligibility provisions on individuals who receive farm payments, and (3) the distribution of income of these individuals compared with all 2006 tax filers. GAO compared USDA data on individuals receiving payments with the latest available Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data on these individuals.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Agriculture||1. To provide greater assurance of program integrity, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Farm Service Agency to work with the Internal Revenue Service to develop a system for verifying the income eligibility for all recipients of farm program payments. If the Secretary determines that it does not have the authority to develop such a system with the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, the Secretary should request this authority from Congress, as appropriate.|