Obama Cites Thousands of Questionable Payments

President-elect Barack Obama, as he outlined his budget philosophy and announced his new Office of Management and Budged chief, cited thousands of potentially improper farm payments doled out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture since 2003.

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The payments in question--2,702 of them between 2003 and 2006--went to individuals whose incomes exceeded the $2.5 million limit set out by the 2002 farm bill.

The GAO also found that USDA does not routinely check its payment applicants--or sample groups of the larger applicant pool--to see if applicants exceed income limits. GAO recommended that USDA work with the Internal Revenue Service to come up with a system of verifying applicants' three-year-average adjusted gross incomes, the form of income capped by the farm bill.

With new, lower income limits set to go into effect with the 2008 farm bill, GAO expects the problem to magnify if not addressed. It found that in 2006, if the new limits were in place, USDA would have given out as much as $90 million in potentially improper payments.

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