The federal government has no idea whether a $4 billion U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative for beginning farmers has worked at all, according to the Office of Inspector General (OIG).
“USDA agencies provided significant financial and technical support to beginning farmers and ranchers, totaling approximately $3.9 billion in FYs 2012 and 2013,” according to an audit released Tuesday. “However, the Department lacked effective performance goals and measures, as well as direction, coordination, and monitoring to ensure that this initiative was effectively accomplished.”
“USDA can neither ensure that the $3.9 billion of beginning farmer assistance in fiscal years 2012 and 2013 has achieved effective and measurable outcomes nor determine if three decades of beginning farmers assistance has resulted in sustainable farming operations,” the OIG added.
The audit pointed to a report from the Government Accountability Office in 1982 that urged the USDA to accurately measure whether the program was beneficial to Americans. Subsequent reports found the agency has not corrected the problem.