Priority Open Recommendations: U.S. Department of Agriculture

GAO-20-288PR Published: Apr 06, 2020. Publicly Released: Apr 13, 2020.
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Fast Facts

Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help improve the federal government. We alert department heads to the recommendations where they can save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations.

This report outlines our 12 priority recommendations to the Department of Agriculture as of April 2020.

For example, we have recommended that USDA better coordinate with the Food and Drug Administration on detecting drug residue in imported seafood.

Since our previous letter in April 2019, USDA implemented 2 of our priority recommendations.

Priority recommendations graphic

Priority recommendations graphic

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What GAO Found

In April 2019, GAO identified 11 priority recommendations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Since then, USDA has implemented two of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to help ensure its food safety goals are complementary and mutually enforcing to those established by the Department of Health and Human Services.

In April 2020, GAO identified three additional priority recommendations for USDA, bringing the total number to 12. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • protecting the safety of the food supply.
  • reducing improper payments.
  • strengthening protections for wage earners.
  • improving USDA’s oversight of federal assistance and awards.
  • improving cybersecurity.

USDA’s continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations.

Why GAO Did This Study

Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015, GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations.

For more information, contact Steve Morris at (202) 512-3841 or

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