Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture must be glad summer is winding down. It’s been a rough few months as federal auditors have issued two reports that found problems with administration of the nation’s bloated farm bill.
Agencies erroneously awarded millions of dollars, and because of poor documentation, many recipients will never be found. Both the department and Congress have roles to play in reducing future incidents.
There’s little indication that farmers are willfully cheating the system. Many errors result from complex rules. Nevertheless, the Agriculture Department should demand better from applicants by refusing payment until all documentation is submitted and applications can be better scrutinized.
The farm bill is a gargantuan beast of government subsidies that might not be as necessary as it once was. One reason the Government Accountability Office has been investigating farm payments is that the agriculture industry has done quite well in recent years. Net farm income nationally more than doubled from 2009 to 2013, when it reached a record $128 billion.
Federal budget deficits remain high. An industry that is thriving does not need as much support from taxpayers.