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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) efforts to encourage sustainable agriculture, focusing on the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture To provide clearer direction to and coordination among USDA sustainable agriculture activities and to more effectively utilize USDA resources, the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure the active participation of the: (1) National Sustainable Agriculture Advisory Council in providing coordination of sustainable agriculture programs; and (2) Agricultural Council on Environmental Quality, which is to direct and coordinate environmental policies and programs, as mandated by the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990.
Closed - Implemented
In August 1994, the Deputy Administrator for Special Programs, CSRS, reported that in May 1994 the advisory council's charter was extended and 14 public sector members were appointed. The council has met twice since the GAO report, in June 1993 and June 1994.
Department of Agriculture To provide clearer direction to and coordination among USDA sustainable agriculture activities and to more efficiently utilize USDA resources, the Secretary of Agriculture should establish a departmental policy on sustainable agriculture and instruct under and assistant secretaries to develop goals to implement that policy for sustainable agriculture. This policy should consider sustainable agriculture's interrelationship with other departmental programs and acknowledge the trade-offs that may be necessary as agriculture becomes more productive, competitive, and environmentally sound.
Closed - Implemented
The Secretary of Agriculture is signing a new policy that specifies that USDA is committed to supporting sustainable agriculture. In addition, a USDA interagency working group completed a report on sustainable agriculture that addresses the same policy issues GAO raised. This report contains 33 recommendations that are now being addressed by numerous working groups in USDA.
Department of Agriculture To increase the impact of the SARE Program, improve its effectiveness, and help ensure its integrity, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct SARE Program management to establish guidance and systems to collect, evaluate, synthesize, and report the results of SARE research projects at regional and national levels.
Closed - Implemented
According to the Deputy Administrator for Special Programs, CSRS, the reporting was developed and continues to be strengthened. Each SARE project is required to contain an educational component to disseminate results. In addition, CSRS developed a new coordination process to further enhance dissemination of SARE information from the national headquarters.
Department of Agriculture To increase the impact of the SARE Program, improve its effectiveness, and help ensure its integrity, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct SARE Program management to establish national standards for regional monitoring of SARE projects.
Closed - Implemented
According to the Deputy Administrator for Special Programs, CSRS, the agency reviewed the standards for monitoring SARE projects in response to this GAO recommendation and made appropriate changes. These corrections to the standards are to strengthen CSRS monitoring of SARE projects and increase the impact of the program.

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