The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released its review of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Research and Promotion programs, which USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) requested in 2010 to help the agency better identify potential oversight improvements. AMS is committed to good stewardship of the producer-funded Research and Promotion programs and has already begun implementing the recommendations of the OIG.

The OIG review was conducted between 2010 and 2011 to assess AMS oversight activities of Research and Promotion programs and focused its review on AMS internal controls and the oversight of Research and Promotion boards’ activities.

After reviewing current procedures, the OIG made two recommendations that AMS will implement: (1) AMS will strengthen internal controls related to its oversight of board activities and develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOP); and (2) AMS will develop guidance to conduct periodic internal reviews of its progress in strengthening oversight.

In advance of today’s final OIG report, AMS began implementing potential recommendations by taking the following decisive actions to strengthen its oversight duties:

• Revising its guidelines in November 2010 by reinforcing its management reviews of boards and strengthened policies on various administrative functions;

• Finalizing the AMS Standard Operating Procedures to ensure consistency in staff responsibilities in January 2012; and

• Implementing periodic internal reviews of the agency’s Research and Promotion programs in order to evaluate and ensure consistency in the application of its policies and responsibilities.

In addition to the specific recommendations offered in the OIG report, AMS is also announcing a new policy that will strongly encourage upfront referendums as the preferable process to establishing all future Research and Promotion programs. This will allow more direct engagement from interested stakeholders and the public prior to the establishment of a potential program and conforms to the Department’s overall mission to provide additional transparency to the Research and Promotion programs.

Currently, AMS oversees 19 Research and Promotion programs. These industry-funded programs have been in existence since 1966 and empower farmers and ranchers to leverage their own resources to develop new markets, strengthen existing markets and conduct important research and promotion activities. AMS provides an oversight and audit function, paid for by the industry assessments, which ensures fiscal responsibility, program efficiency and fair treatment of participating stakeholders.