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January 4, 2010

USDA AND IRS PARTNERING TO DETERMINE FARM PAYMENT ELIGIBILITY

For more information on Newsline, contact: Cyndie Sirekis, Director, Internal Communications, American Farm Bureau Federation, cyndies@fb.org.

 
 A NEW PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN USDA AND THE IRS AIMS SETS UP AN ELECTRONIC INFORMATION EXCHANGE AIMED AT ENSURING THAT FARMERS WHO GET FARM PROGRAM PAYMENTS ARE ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE THEM. 

JOHNNA MILLER REPORTS.


MILLER: THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE ARE NOW WORKING TOGETHER TO REDUCE FRAUD BY VERIFYING WHICH FARMERS ARE ELIGIBLE FOR FARM PROGRAM PAYMENTS.  AMERICAN FARM BUREAU FARM POLICY SPECIALIST TARA SMITH SAYS, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THIS PARTNERSHIP MAY ACTUALLY MAKE FARMERS’ LIVES EASIER.
TARA SMITH (AFBF FARM POLICY SPECIALIST): WE CERTAINLY KNOW THAT ANY FARMER’S INITIAL REACTION TO HEARING THAT IRS AND USDA ARE GOING TO WORK TOGETHER IS GOING TO BE A VERY NEGATIVE, KNEE-JERK REACTION.  SO WE WERE VERY SPECIFIC IN LAYING OUT OUR CONCERNS TO USDA AND, LITERALLY GOING POINT BY POINT THROUGH OUR CONCERNS, THEY SEEM TO HAVE TAKEN THE TIME TO ADDRESS EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE CONCERNS. 
MILLER: SMITH SAYS THE NEW PROCESS ADDRESSES CONCERNS ABOUT PRIVACY AND SHOULD ACTUALLY MAKE THAT INFORMATION SAFER BECAUSE IT WOULD BYPASS THE LOCAL FARM SERVICE AGENCY OFFICES.
SMITH: ONE OF OUR CONCERNS HAS ALWAYS BEEN THAT FARMERS ARE REQUIRED TO BRING BUSINESS DOCUMENTATION OR TAX DOCUMENTATION TO A LOCAL FSA OFFICE.  AND WHILE WE ADMIRE THE WORK THAT OUR LOCAL FSA OFFICES DO, THAT IS VERY SENSITIVE INFORMATION AND A LOT OF TIMES THE SECURITY THAT NEEDS TO BE IN PLACE FOR THAT KIND OF INFORMATION JUST REALLY ISN'T THERE. THEY’VE DONE THIS IN A WAY THAT THE LOCAL OR COUNTY FSA OFFICE IS NEVER GOING TO TOUCH ANY TAX DOCUMENTATION.  FARMERS HAVE TO FILL OUT A FORM THAT GOES DIRECTLY TO THE IRS AND EVEN IF THEY GET RED-FLAGGED IT GOES TO THE STATE FSA COMMITTEE AND NOT THROUGH THE LOCAL FSA OFFICE AT ALL.  THOSE ARE HUGE IMPROVEMENTS OVER THE CURRENT SYSTEM. 
MILLER: UNDER THE OLD SYSTEM ANYONE COULD BE AUDITED TO SEE IF THEY QUALIFY FOR FARM PAYMENTS, BUT THE NEW PROCESS WILL FOCUS AUDITS ON THOSE MORE LIKELY TO BE INELIGIBLE, WHICH SMITH SAYS MEANS A BETTER USE OF USDA RESOURCES.
SMITH: I THINK EVERYONE WANTS TO BE SURE THAT FARM PROGRAM PAYMENTS ARE GOING TO THOSE FOLKS WHO ARE ELIGIBLE.  NO ONE WANTS TO SEE PAYMENTS GO WHERE THEY AREN’T SUPPOSED TO GO AND IF THIS SYSTEM HELPS ENSURE THAT, THAT’S DEFINITELY A POSITIVE THING.  IF IT HELPS DO THAT IN A WAY THAT PROTECTS FARMERS, THAT’S EVEN BETTER. 
MILLER: THE CONSENT FORMS ARE DUE TO THE IRS BY JUNE 15TH. JOHNNA MILLER, WASHINGTON.
MILLER: WE HAVE TWO EXTRA ACTUALITIES WITH AFBF FARM POLICY SPECIALIST TARA SMITH.  IN THE FIRST EXTRA ACTUALITY SHE TALKS ABOUT WHAT THE NEW USDA/IRS PARTNERSHIP WILL MEAN TO FARMERS. THE CUT RUNS 33 SECONDS, IN 3-2-1.
SMITH: IN THE PAST FARMERS OFTEN HAD TO TAKE THEIR TAX DOCUMENTATION TO A LOCAL OR COUNTY FSA OFFICE.  THAT PROCESS IS NOT GOING TO OCCUR ANYMORE.  IN THE PAST, ALSO, THERE WAS AN AUDIT PROCESS THAT RANDOMLY CHOSE FARMERS FOR AUDITS.  WHETHER YOU WERE A BIG FARMER OR A SMALL FARMER, IT DIDN’T MATTER, YOU WERE ELIGIBLE TO BE AUDITED BY USDA.  THIS IS GOING TO CHANGE THAT PROCESS.  YOU’RE NOT GOING TO HAVE TO TAKE ANY TAX DOCUMENTATION TO YOUR LOCAL FSA OFFICE AND NOW INSTEAD OF EVERYONE BEING ELIGIBLE FOR AN AUDIT, THEY’RE GOING TO BE MORE TARGETED TO THOSE FARMERS WHO ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE INELIGIBLE. 
MILLER: IN THE SECOND EXTRA ACTUALITY SMITH SAYS THE NEW SYSTEM WILL SAVE MONEY AND RESOURCES BY FOCUSING AUDITS ON THOSE MORE LIKELY TO BE INELIGIBLE FOR PAYMENTS. THE CUT RUNS 23 SECONDS, IN 3-2-1.
SMITH: I THINK ONE OF THE OTHER BENEFITS IS THAT IN THE PAST ANY FARMER, EVEN A SMALL FARMER WHO MAKES $30,000 A YEAR, COULD BE SUBJECT TO AN AUDIT BY USDA.  THAT DIDN’T REALLY MAKE A LOT OF SENSE AND QUITE FRANKLY WASN’T THE BEST USE OF USDA’S RESOURCES. NOW THOSE AUDITS ARE GOING TO BE TARGETED MORE TOWARDS THOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE MORE LIKELY TO COME UP AGAINST THOSE ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME CAPS.
MILLER: NEWSLINE IS UPDATED MONDAYS AND THURSDAYS BY 5PM EASTERN TIME. THANK YOU FOR LISTENING.

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