GAO report questions USDA’s handling of CFAP payments

Some producers’ payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program are coming into question following a review from the Government Accountability Office.

The $31 billion program was launched by the Trump administration in 2020. The Farm Service Agency provided the aid to more than 950,000 producers of ag commodities in 2020 and 2021 to help offset losses and costs brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Steve Morris, Director of Natural Resources and Environment with the GAO, tells Brownfield the agency sampled the claims of 90 producers and over half didn’t provide proper support for their payments. “These are cases where you could say the payments themselves are potentially improper,” Morris said. “We referred these cases to the USDA (Office of Inspector General) for their investigation.”

The report says there are about $87.3 million of potential improper payments.

Morris says the Farm Service Agency needs to conduct additional spot checks of CFAP payments and use a risk-based approach when selecting producers for review. “We found that some of the support was, for example, a lesser amount than the commodity that was actually claimed for a loss,” Morris said. “And so, farmers would get compensated for the full amount when the documentation may have shown that there was a lesser amount.”

The Biden administration’s USDA has agreed with the GAO’s recommendations.

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