JULY 23, 2007
A federal program created to help financially struggling farmers has instead given more than $1 billion taxpayer dollars to dead people because government auditors failed to assure that the money was properly distributed.
Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal government annually gives the nation’s farmers an estimated $20 billion through a variety of programs and the money is distributed through a division called the Farm Service Agency, which is supposed to verify eligibility before checks get cut.
Instead, negligent government officials approved a mega cash giveaway of more than $1.1 billion over seven years to estates or companies of farmers who had been dead for years. During that period, government auditors approved nearly half of the payments without bothering to review the cases to assure eligibility.
A Congressional investigative report cites numerous cases in which deceased farmers collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from the government. In one case an Alabama estate got $567,000 in government payments more than seven years after the farmer died and in another an Illinois soybean and corn farm got nearly half a million dollars on behalf of an owner who lived in Florida before his 1995 death.
In one Georgia county new federal farm payments were approved for more than 100 people who had been dead for over two years. Other cases involved recipients who had reached the annual limit on farm subsidies ($360,000) and managed to collect more government money as estate beneficiaries.
The scathing report concludes that a simple and cost-effective database check against the Social Security Administration’s list of deceased people could help the Agriculture Department verity individuals receiving farm payments. It could also save American taxpayers billions of dollars.
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