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- Congress and government agencies should take a lesson from U.S. farmers, said South Dakota Sen. John Thune. “Our farmers have learned how to make every seed and every drop of fuel, chemicals and fertilizer provide the maximum benefit possible. That’s something the federal government must likewise do: increase its efficiencies and cost effectiveness of its operations. Farmers are a great example to us.”
ACRE and SURE
The ACRE and SURE programs were then up for scrutiny. From producers “we hear the programs don’t allow for the timely delivery of assistance, that they use a multitude of data points and are generally confusing for the producer,” said Roberts. “The ACRE payment calculation alone requires the producer to go through 23 steps – about 22 more than necessary.”
In later testimony, this assertion was backed up by wheat and barley farmer Bret Blankenship who testified to spending a full quarter of his management time working through the requirements for various government programs. “The business of agriculture isn’t just about cultivating, tending or harvesting a crop.”
Scuse: “I think the 2008 farm bill took a giant step forward in helping farmers and ranchers across the United States -- the livestock programs for losses and ACRE and SURE to enhance coverage they may have in crop insurance.
ACRE and SURE “are complex, no doubt about it,” continued Scuse. “There have been issues from the agricultural community about SURE. SURE pays (out) a year after a loss.”
Technology is also an issue for FSA, said Scuse, where “we’re dealing with systems that date back to the 1980s. Technology has affected some of the program implementation and these complicated programs. With SURE, for example, we’ve had to do manual calculations because of the lack of technology. If there’s one thing we need going forward it’s … better technology to help office staff.”
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar wanted to knowwhat factors make USDA programs more open to abuse. What additional oversight rules should be considered?
“The sheer complexity and size of the programs,” replied Scuse. “Programs that are easily understood and administered are the ones we have the best ability to (oversee).
“Technology is a major factor for our field offices. We need to have the proper tools to allow us to do reviews at the local level.”
Coordinating agency functions and language was also on Klobuchar’s radar. As the FSA and RMA “work to harmonize the data requirements from these two agencies how are you ensuring the newest GPS field data can be seamlessly incorporated into the new system?”
Scuse: “We started a project 10 months ago. It’s still in its infancy but we hope to have a pilot project in 2012 with full implementation in 2013. (In that), we’ll use common information, common data and common terminology for one of the first times at USDA between NRCS, FSA, RMA and NASS. That will make sure the technology and terminology is all compatible.”