WASHINGTON — The Agriculture Department sent $1.1 billion in farm payments to more than 170,000 dead people over a seven-year period, congressional investigators say.
The findings by the Government Accountability Office were released Monday as the House prepared to debate and pass farm legislation this week that would govern subsidies and the department's programs for the next five years.
GAO auditors reviewed payments from 1999 through 2005 in the report, which was requested by Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
"It's unconscionable that the Department of Agriculture would think that a dead person was actively engaged in the business of farming," said Grassley.
The auditors said they found that the department has not been conducting the necessary checks to ensure that subsidy payments are proper.
"USDA has made farm payments to estates more than two years after recipients died, without determining, as its regulations require, whether the estates were kept open to receive these payments," their report said.
Of the identified payments to deceased farmers' estates or businesses, 40 percent went to those who had been dead more than three years, and 19 percent went to those who had been dead for seven or more years.
John Johnson, a deputy administrator for the Farm Service Agency, said there is no indication that the payments were improper, since some rules allow estates to continue receiving money after a two-year grace period. The department is hoping to rely less on self-reporting and is working with the Social Security Administration to boost its record keeping, he said.
OK, I have 2 questions about this.
1) Why does our government continue to subsidize farmers? I have an uncle who owns the original land that his father farmed. This uncle is an attorney - no interest in farming at all. But he wants to keep the land in the family, which I can fully understand. What I do not understand is why should he be getting $6,000 a year to plant grass on the land (until he applied for the subsidy, the land just sat bare, growing only weeds).
2) Why are there rules that allow estates to continue receiving subsidy money after the original receipent dies?
And our government is how many billions in the hole? Gee, we wonder why!
If I budgeted my money like the government does - well, I would have been bankrupt the first year I went to work after graduation!
I know that I have to pay $ for house payment, another $ for a car payment, then $ for life/auto/house insurance, $ for house taxes, then I know how much I can spend for groceries, clothes and fun stuff. Now, if something happens where I won't be bringing in as much as I have, then I know I have to cut back on my spending somewhere.
The US government needs to understand that is the way to balance/keep a budget. Do away with the little extras in order to pay for the essentials.