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Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Agriculture

GAO-24-107307 Published: Jun 06, 2024. Publicly Released: Jun 13, 2024.
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Fast Facts

Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help the federal government save money, address issues on our High Risk List, and significantly improve government operations.

This letter to the Department of Agriculture outlines 9 open recommendations that it should prioritize. For example, we recommended USDA analyze different options to help farmers and ranchers prepare for the impacts of climate change.

USDA implemented 5 of the recommendations we identified as a priority last year.

We regularly update priority recommendations here.

Graphic that says, "GAO's Priority Open Recommendations" and includes the USDA seal.

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What GAO Found

In May 2023, GAO identified 12 priority recommendations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Since then, USDA has implemented five of those recommendations by, among other things, strengthening its process to help prevent payments to participants whose incomes exceed eligibility limits for farm and conservation programs.

In May 2024, GAO identified two additional priority recommendations for USDA, bringing the total number to nine. These recommendations focus on the following areas:

  • reducing improper payments,
  • improving USDA's oversight of federal assistance programs,
  • improving IT and cybersecurity,
  • managing federal fiscal exposure to climate risks,
  • improving data sharing about foreign investments in U.S. agricultural land, and
  • enhancing preparedness for emerging zoonotic diseases.

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 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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Agricultural landsClimate changeCybersecurityData sharingFederal assistance programsForeign investmentsImproper paymentsInformation securityRisk managementFarming