Farmers and ranchers have been operating without a new Farm Bill for nearly a year. When Congress reconvenes next week, work on the heavily truncated measure will likely be pushed to the side as votes on military action in Syria and raising the debt ceiling take center stage.
But USDA continues to manage those aspects of the 2008 Farm Bill that will expire at the end of the month. This includes making payments to farmers and other businesses under a 2009 Presidential Executive Order to reduce wasteful spending. And, after some required in-house investigation, it appears USDA over paid a few customers in 2012.
According to USDA’s Office of the Inspector General, the Department of Agriculture paid $20.3 million more than it should have to farmers and other aid agencies in fiscal year 2012. In a report released this week, USDA identified 239 overpayments - an increase of 67% above fiscal year 2011 – and stated that six of USDA’s seven component agencies “struggle” to submit reports on time or with any accuracy.
The report found instances of overpayment that failed to correspond with supporting documentation. In one case, USDA’s Farm Service Agency identified two overpayments of more than $45,000 when nothing should have been paid. After this particular case was reviewed by the OIG’s office it was determined a payment should have been made in the amount of $2048 to each party. The largest number, as well as the highest dollar amount of overpayments, were processed by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation. USDA auditors discovered 70 overpayments totaling over $14.5 million.
The Food and Nutrition Service - which oversees the supplemental nutrition assistance program and is famous for stories of its beneficiaries defrauding the government - reported no overpayments.
In response to the report, USDA officials agreed to improve the way they identify and document overpayment errors and went on to say new procedures had already been put in place at the end of last month.