Wednesday, March 25, 2009

House Ag and Implementing Conservation Programs

House Ag had a hearing with NRCS and FSA, plus the OIG and GAO types, on problems with handling conservation program payments, including this GAO report. I briefly yield to my FSA partisanship and note the following excerpts from the IG's prepared testimony.
These problems occurred because NRCS lacked federal financial accounting expertise. Until 2004, NRCS had relied on FSA employees to help account for its transactions, and had not cultivated a staff of accounting professionals. Part of this problem also has to do with how NRCS understands its mission within USDA. Many NRCS officials perceive their primary role as providing technical and scientific assistance to producers. Training employees to correctly account for its activities was not the agency’s first priority.

We found possible noncompliance issues on approximately 40 percent of the[WRP] easement sites we inspected.
I'm wondering about the background of shifting payments from FSA to NRCS--presumably the NRCS interest groups had bigger clout on Capitol Hill than the FSA interest groups.

This area is of more than passing interest to me, given my guess that NRCS will be given responsibility for Vilsack's carbon offsets (remember, you heard it here first).

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