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Priority Open Recommendations: U.S. Department of Agriculture

GAO-21-590PR Published: Jul 01, 2021. Publicly Released: Jul 08, 2021.
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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 where they can save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations.

This report outlines our 11 priority open recommendations for USDA as of June 2021.

For example, in November 2017, we made a recommendation that could help USDA better protect the safety and health of workers in the meat and poultry industry.

Since our previous letter in April 2020, USDA has implemented 2 of our priority recommendations.

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What GAO Found

In April 2020, GAO identified 12 priority recommendations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Since then, USDA has implemented two of those recommendations. The department publicized information on state agencies’ use of data matching to reduce recipient fraud. USDA also ensured its workforce data are more reliable.

In July 2021, GAO identified one additional priority recommendation for USDA, bringing the total number to 11. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • protecting the safety of the food supply.
  • reducing improper payments.
  • strengthening protections for wage earners.
  • improving 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 Mark Gaffigan at (202) 512-3841 or


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Critical infrastructureCybersecurityFederal assistance programsFood inspectionFood safetyFood standardsHigh-risk issuesImproper paymentsPolicies and proceduresRisk managementWorker safety