On Monday, Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse as well as Representative Austin Scott, of Georgia, led a letter to United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack with Chair of House Agriculture Committee “GT” Thompson urging immediate action to improve outdated and inefficient FSA program operations.
“Congress and USDA request an array of information from agricultural businesses to establish eligibility for farm programs, determine benefit levels, and gather data to assess the impact of such programs. Unfortunately, and too frequently, USDA and subsidiary agency forms request information of agricultural businesses which does not align with that used to make eligibility and benefit decisions,” the letter stated.
The letter outlined four actions, the lawmakers thought USDA could take to make FSA programs function as intended:
- Ensure all forms match actual farm program requirements
- Ensures all forms are made available for online submission
- Invest in FSA in-person staff training to improve the consistency of program implementation across different county offices
- Fully implement Section 1614 of the 2014 Farm Bill to reduce burdens on producers by streamlining the communication between FSA and the Risk Management Agency and allowing for reporting of electronic data to FSA.
“USDA plays a key role in ensuring that our nation’s agricultural sector is the most innovative and productive in the world,” the letter said. “Implementing these modest reforms will ensure that USDA programs which incentivize that innovation function as intended, reduce costs to taxpayers, and help farmers determine how to navigate often challenging requirements.”
“The disconnect between information requested and the information needed to make decisions delays eligibility and benefit determinations, increases costs at USDA, and can result in erroneous decisions,” the letter continued.
“American agriculture is the most advanced in the world, yet USDA still relies on paper forms submitted in person to determine farmers’ and ranchers’ eligibility for federal programs,” said Farm Program Fairness Coalition chairman Brian Kuehl. “We appreciate the leadership of Chairman Newhouse and Rep. Scott in urging USDA to use technology that saves time for producers and USDA staff, reduces errors, and helps ensure timely eligibility decisions.”
Click Here to read Monday’s letter.
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