Earlier this week, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) urged Department of Agriculture officials to push for tougher rules regarding farm assistance fraud and an increased budget dedicated to fraud investigation. As part of her role as chair of the Senate Committee of Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Stabenow is in a unique position to combat fraud in the agricultural sector. While she praised the 2008 Farm Bill as making important strides in cracking down on farm subsidies misconduct, Stabenow maintained that continued vigilance was needed, particularly in the climate of austerity currently dominating Washington.
In a Senate hearing, Stabenow advocated increased regulation, and suggested annual reviews of food assistance programs and the civil servants who work on those programs. In addition, she urged Congress to consider the plight of many working families, who desperately need food assistance, and reiterated that in a period of tight budgets, not a single dollar of federal money could afford to be lost on fraud or waste.
Stabenow hinted that electronic systems could prove a beneficial solution to combating fraud. Earlier this month, food assistance debit cards in Michigan were tied to an ongoing fraud investigation. Debit cards were being exchanged for drugs and weapons, a discovery made, in part, by tracking the purchases made on those debit cards. At the Senate hearing, Stabenow pledged her support for electronic tools to help monitor USDA assistance programs.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer