By Derrick Cain
The USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) has been taking steps to reduce improper payments as part of a larger effort to cut costs, RMA Administrator Brandon Willis told a House panel today.
Speaking during a hearing on the USDA's fiscal year 2014 budget proposal before the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, Willis said the RMA now has "better databases" which should help cut down on the errant payments.
"One dollar of improper payments is too much," Willis said. "I would like to get that down."
Willis was responding to a question from subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., who wanted to know what the agency was doing to reduce the approximate $173 million in annual improper payments.
Aderholt said USDA, as a whole, issued $5.5 billion in improper payments in FY 2012.
Michael Scuse, under secretary of the Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services (FFAS), said the budget request for RMA asks for "such sums as necessary" as mandatory spending for all costs associated with the program. "This level of funding will provide the necessary resources to meet program expenses at whatever level of coverage producers choose to purchase," Scuse said.
Scuse said the request asks for $71 million in discretionary spending to support 455 employees. He said that is lower than $80 million to support 528 employees in FY 2010.
Overall, the budget requests $2.032 billion for the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services mission area, of which about $1.59 billion would be for Farm Service Agency programs and $373.3 million would be for Foreign Agricultural Services. Notably, the budget requests to transfer about $1.4 billion from the Food for Peace program to USAID.
Aderholt applauded FFAS for taking steps to cut costs including closing 125 field offices and two overseas offices; condensing the number of reporting dates for reporting acreage and crop data; and reducing staffing levels by using existing authorities.
"That being said, there is always room for improvement in the way USDA manages taxpayers' dollars," Aderholt said.