However, GAO said FSA offices haven't always followed statutory guidance, and reviews of participants' required documents vary in quality. Without better reviews or guidance from state offices, local errors could continue. And, GAO admits that while the income caps stipulated in the 2008 farm bill remain in effect, it is difficult to accurately classify farm income and non-farm income when reviewing tax returns, leading to a variety of errors.
"Without simplification of these provisions, this difficulty—and the resulting errors—are likely to persist, along with payments to some ineligible participants," GAO said.
As the September 2013 expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill extension nears, legislators this summer have been concerned with reforming the programs in per recent farm bill discussions. Both the Senate and House 2013 Farm Bills each include provisions to apply a single limit on individual adjusted gross income for a majority of farm programs, which the GAO says could also decrease the number of total program participants.
For the House, the AGI limit is $950,000, while the Senate proposed an AGI limit of $750,000. Though both proposals have been approved independently, the House and Senate have not yet considered the measure in conference committee.
The Senate's farm bill also included a provision that would reduce subsidies for crop insurance premiums by 15 percentage points for participants with average adjusted gross income over $750,000.
Read the GAO's full report and a letter to Sen. Stabenow: Farm Programs: Additional Steps Needed to Help Prevent Payments to Participants Whose Incomes Exceed Limits.