USDA Paid $36 Million to Farmers Who Were Already Dead, Says New Report

Mike O'Brien

A new Government Accountability Office report shows that U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies paid $36 million to farmers who had died.

The improper payments were made to 6,336 dead people between 2008 and 2012.

The USDA spends $20 billion a year on programs that support one million people through income assistance, crop insurance and disaster relief.

The report, which followed a lengthy audit, is starkly titled USDA Needs to Do More to Prevent Improper Payments to Deceased Individuals."

GAO official Daniel Garcia-Diaz said: "Over the course of time, farmers who are enrolled in these programs may pass away.

"If nobody notifies USDA or the agency doesn’t have any particular steps to identify deceased farmers, it’s possible that payments or other benefits may accrue to deceased individuals."

The GAO investigated three USDA agencies and found that only one had procedures in place to prevent improper payments to the dead, reports.

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) used a procedure that compared program participants against the Social Security Administration’s death rolls.

By doing this, the FSA identified 28,613 deceased individuals, of which six percent, or 1,799 individuals, incorrectly received $3.3 million over two years. Unfortunately, only $1 million has been recovered.

The other two other agencies, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Risk Management Agency (RMA) did not have any procedure in place.

The GAO probe revealed that between 2008 and 2012, NRCS made $10.6 million in payments to individuals who had been dead for one year or more. In the same timeframe, RMA paid $22 million to the dead.

In its recommendations, the GAO insisted that the USDA agencies develop better data-mining procedures to ensure that no further money is wasted.