GAO’s reports and testimonies give Congress, federal agencies, and the public timely, fact-based, non-partisan information that can improve government operations and save taxpayers billions of dollars.
Foreign trade partners retaliated for increased U.S. tariffs in 2018—reducing U.S. exports of certain agricultural commodities. USDA gave affected farm producers $23 billion in 2018 and 2019 to compensate for lost exports.
In 2017, USDA announced a major initiative to provide better customer service to U.S. farmers, ranchers, and foresters by modernizing its IT operations. A key IT project was the 2018 launch of Farmers.gov to provide online self-service applications, like a farm loan eligibility tool.
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.
Federal agencies (such as Customs and Border Protection and the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service) oversee inspections at U.S. ports of entry to protect U.S. agriculture from pests and diseases.
Draining wetlands can harm water quality and wildlife habitat. Millions of acres of wetlands known as "potholes" remain in the Midwest, often on farms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture can withhold benefits from farmers who violate wetlands conservation rules.
From 2014 through 2018, the U.S. and other donors spent an estimated $75 billion on global food security assistance. This included, for example, supplying seeds and fertilizer, providing food to crisis-affected people, addressing nutrient deficiencies, and providing school meals.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture distributes billions of dollars a year through programs that, by law, require payment recipients to be actively engaged in farming. Recipients can be individuals or entities such as corporations and trusts. They can receive up to $125,000 a year.
COVID-19 led to food supply disruptions. In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began buying about $3 billion in fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and meat; packaging the food in family-sized boxes; and transporting it to food banks and other organizations within weeks.
For 2019, the USDA's Market Facilitation Program paid $14.4 billion to about 644,000 farming operations USDA said were hurt by trade disruptions and tariffs.
USDA changed the payment structure for the three types of commodities covered by this program for 2019.