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Detailed Information on the
Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers Assessment

Program Code 10003023
Program Title Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers
Department Name Department of Agriculture
Agency/Bureau Name Foreign Agricultural Service
Program Type(s) Direct Federal Program
Assessment Year 2006
Assessment Rating Results Not Demonstrated
Assessment Section Scores
Section Score
Program Purpose & Design 60%
Strategic Planning 50%
Program Management 71%
Program Results/Accountability 20%
Program Funding Level
(in millions)
FY2007 $90
FY2008 $9
FY2009 $0

Ongoing Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments

Completed Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments
2006

Develop training modules tailored to address the 3 adjustment options provided in the legislation, i.e., improve competitiveness and marketing; crop substitution; and follow-on intensive technical assistance specific to the needs of the recipients.

Completed Statutory authority for the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers program expired on December 31, 2007

Program Performance Measures

Term Type  
Annual Outcome

Measure: The percent of applicants who report that they adjusted to import competition in a given year and that TAA was useful in making their adjustment.


Explanation:The purpose of Trade Adjustment Assistance is to provide relief that alleviates serious injury to an affected industry and facilitates its positive adjustment to import competition. Adjustment is said to occur when the domestic industry is able to compete successfully with imports after actions taken under this title terminate, or when the domestic industry experiences an orderly transfer of resources to other productive pursuits; and dislocated workers in the industry experience an orderly transition to productive pursuits. At present, data regarding adjustment to import competition by farmers and fishermen does not exist. Therefore, TAA program managers propose to evaluate the program by sampling eligible applicants in all states for all approved commodities for adjustment assistance benefits in order to quantify this outcome. To maximize eligible applicant response rates and negate the additional reporting burden that the collection of data places upon program participants, FAS proposes offering them a small cash payment, if they respond to the survey in a timely fashion. The survey will be conducted when assistance provided by a TAA industry petition terminates, and it will include everyone who applied for benefits during the lifetime of the program. In the case of larger industries or sectors, sampling of program participants may be appropriate. Each industry survey would provide FAS data on the number of applicants who report adjusting to imports, the number who report that TAA was useful in making their adjustment, the number who report that Extension Service training was useful for adjustment, the number who report that the TAA cash allowance was useful, and the number who report that they applied for Department of Labor (DOL) retaining benefits based on their eligibility under the program. All industry surveys completed during a single fiscal year would be consolidated to derive a single program performance measure. Weighting would be used to compensate for the different sizes of the industries surveyed. The initial year's survey data would be used to establish a baseline to evaluate future years' performance. Even though the measure would contain a different mix of industries each year, the average percent of applicants who report that TAA was useful should provide a reasonable indicator of program success. However, because each industry faces unique circumstances regarding adjustment to imports, the intensity of adjustment and the approaches used by producers to adjust may vary significantly. For example, if the producers have already adopted up-to-date technologies, further training may yield little benefit and more producers may opt for DOL job retraining benefits. On the other hand, Extension Service training may be very useful in other sectors by redirecting producers to alternative crops resulting in fewer producers opting out of agriculture. It may be that the cash benefit proves most useful in some sectors. Therefore, the establishment of targets for the usefullness of technical training, the cash allowances and the DOL retraining benefit is not feasible, as these averages could vary from year to year depending solely upon the mix of industries being surveyed.

Year Target Actual
2005 47% 47%
2006 49% Avail in April 2008
2007 51% N/A
2008 53%
2009 55%
Long-term Outcome

Measure: In FY 2010, the percent of applicants reporting that they adjusted to import competition and who also report that TAA was useful in making the adjustment.


Explanation:The long-term performance measure is related to the annual performance under #1 above, i.e. the percent of applicants reporting TAA to be useful for adjustment to import competition. Annual evaluation data collected on behalf of the TAA Program for Farmers will document changes that can be attributed to the Program, and thus provide a measure of the Program utility in achieving its stated goals. As the USDA and participating universities gain greater experience in managing and delivering Program benefits, it is expected that the percent of applicants using TAA Program benefits to successfully adjust to import competition will increase over time. After the 2006 evaluation of the program is completed and analyzed, it should be possible to establish long-term targets.

Year Target Actual
2003 no baseline establis n/a
2004 21% 21%
2005 21% 21%
2006 22% Avail April 2008
2007 23% N/A
2008 24%
2009 25%
2010 26%
2011 27%
2012 28%
Annual Outcome

Measure: Percent of applicants who identify Phase I Extension Service mandatory technical assistance as useful in adjusting to imports.


Explanation:The 2002 Trade Act requires that before farmers and fishermen are eligible to receive cash payments or Department of Labor retraining benefits they must first receive technical assistance on how to adjust to import competition. The act also requires that this assistance be provided by an Extension Service agent or employee. This is what is now referred to as Phase I (required) technical assistance. In 2005, a Phase II (optional) technical assistance program was initiated to provide business-specific assistance that considers the entire realm of potential changes a business could make to adjust to import competition assistance (See performance Measure #4) that is much broader than the minimal topics as provided for in the authorizing legislation. Phase I technical assistance is developed using a consistent format regardless of commodity or fish species and region. The technical assistance information is also developed in three different media, hard copy for handouts, power point presentations to train Extension Service educators or employees and to assist farmers and fishermen, and an on-line course under the expectation that long-distance education will be permitted in the future. Farmers and fishermen who apply for TAA benefits under an approved commodity or fish species petition, and who can show production or fish harvesting are immediately eligible to receive Phase I technical assistance. Both Phase I and Phase II technical assistance must be provided at no cost to the applicants. In most cases, Phase I technical assistance is provided in a workshop format within 50 miles of any applicant, the maximum commuting distance defined by USDA. As a result, depending on the distribution of the commodity or fish harvesting businesses, hundreds of workshops may be held for any given commodity or fish species. For example, over 300 workshops were held in Alaska alone for salmon permit holders and crewmen. In addition, over a hundred workshops were held in 42 other States where Alaskan salmon permit holders and crewmen resided. Additionally, one-on-one training was provided to individuals who lived in six foreign countries, and for those who for one reason or another could not attend the scheduled training. In contrast, for example, only two workshops were held for wild blueberry growers since all growers resided in only five counties in Maine. The Phase I training seminars provide eligible applicants information on the current state of the business sector, nationally and internationally and the future outlook. Mandatory topics include marketing strategies, diversification of enterprise, and improving the efficiency in future years, about TAA benefits, including retraining benefits provided by the Department of Labor. Seminar participants receive published studies and resource materials to supplement documents posted on the TAA Technical Assistance website maintained by another cooperating entity, the Digital Center for Risk Management Education at the university of Minnesota. The evaluation instrument is designed to measure the value of Phase I technical assistance to the recipient farmers and fishermen. It is expected that the instrument will explain annual changes in the TAA program's overall performance measure of usefulness. For this measure, it is expected that the evaluation will establish a baseline, and annual targets would be developed thereafter.

Year Target Actual
2003 . NA
2004 45% 45%
2005 45% 45%
2006 47% Avail April 2008
2007 56% N/A
2008 56%
2009 69%
Annual Outcome

Measure: Percent of applicants who identify Phase II Extension Service intensive technical training as useful in adjusting to imports.


Explanation:It goes without saying that a two-four hour workshop, while providing excellent and timely information on potential changes a farmer or fisherman could make to their business operations will have minimal long term impacts. This realization occurred shortly after the implementation of the TAA Program. At the time the FAS TAA Program Director believed that the most valuable benefits of the TAA Program were in fact the technical assistance benefits provided by the Extension Service, and asked CSREES and the participating risk management centers to develop a more intensive technical assistance program that would work with individual farmer and fisherman businesses to help them make necessary changes to increase their competitiveness and profitability. As a result of this and other conversations, a Phase II technical assistance program was developed. A description of this program is now included in the Phase I technical assistance curricula and has proven to be of great interest. For example, 80% of the Idaho potato TAA applicants who received Phase I technical assistance indicated that they would be interested in receiving Phase II technical assistance. Phase II technical is a customized program of assistance intended to address the producer's specific business situation and needs. By means of individual consultations and workshops, producers and fishermen will develop their own business plans taking advantage of new management practices, technologies, and emerging market opportunities, or leading to alternative enterprises. Initially, it is expected that on average, it will take a period of no more than two years to design, develop and implement various business plans that will enhance competitiveness and profitability. The evaluation instrument should provide information useful for assessing the perceived value of the Phase II technical assistance. For this measure, subsequent evaluations should provide a baseline as to the percent of applicants who find Phase II valuable in adjusting to import competition. Targets could then be established on an annual basis.

Year Target Actual
2004 0 0
2005 0 0
2006 30% Available April 2008
2007 33% N/A
2008 36%
2009 39%
Annual Outcome

Measure: Percent of applicants who identify the TAA cash allowance as useful in adjusting.


Explanation:For a petition to be certified for TAA, commodity prices must have declined in the most recent marketing year by more than 20 percent from the average of the preceding 5 years. As a result, producers must adjust to lower prices and less income. The possibility of receiving a cash allowance to help compensate for lost income is one reason why producers apply for TAA. A formula in the Trade Act determines the amount of the allowance. The maximum payment is limited to $10,000 per year. However, producers must report a decline in net farm or fishing income on their Federal income tax return to be eligible for the allowance. As a result, many producers complain that the program's cash allowances are either inadequate or unreasonably denied. Thus, it is expected that relatively few applicants will identify the cash allowance, by itself, as useful. If the evaluation were to confirm this, the Department could use the information to suggest a legislative change to Congress. In any event, a farmer or fisherman who wishes to take advantage of Department of Labor re-training benefits must first be eligible to receive a cash payment. This is addressed in the following performance measure.

Year Target Actual
2004 22% 22%
2005 22% 22%
2006 23% Available April 2008
2007 24% N/A
2008 24%
2009 25%
Annual Outcome

Measure: Percent of eligible applicants who apply for Department of Labor (DOL) retraining benefits.


Explanation:The inability of farmers, who are considered by DOL to be self-employed, and thus were previously not eligible to take advantage of DOL re-training and tuition reimbursement TAA programs, was changed in the 2002 Trade Act. The legislation establishing the TAA Program for Farmers specifically made them eligible for DOL benefits once they qualified for cash payments. The number of applicants who apply for DOL job retraining is therefore a measure of the program's success because it facilitates the transition of dislocated farmers and fishermen to other productive pursuits. Changes in the percentage of farmers applying for DOL retraining benefits should be negatively correlated with the percent of applicants indicating that TAA technical training and cash allowances were useful in making their adjustment to import competition. Therefore, a composite baseline and annual target that assesses the usefulness of DOL eligibility for job retraining may merely be a measure of It is expected that fishing business crewmen who are often of college age will constitute the major group in applying for TAA DOL retraining benefits.

Year Target Actual
2004 8% 8%
2005 8% 8%
2006 8% Available April 2008
2007 8% N/A
2008 8%
2009 8%
Annual Efficiency

Measure: The average number of days for USDA to make a petition determination is 40 days or less.The average number of days for USDA to make a petition determination is 40 days or less.


Explanation:To initiate a program of trade adjustment assistance, the Department of Agriculture must first receive a petition for assistance submitted by a group of at least three farmers or fishermen not familialy related or an organization that represents a group of farmers or fishermen. The petition must clearly identify the domestic commodity, the specific marketing year affected, and the area within the United States that has been adversely impacted by the imports. The producers must provide a statement why the commodity or fish species should be considered eligible for trade adjustment assistance. If the petition provides all of the above information, USDA publishes a notice of filing in the Federal Register. By law, USDA has 40 days to certify (approve) or deny the producers' petition. During the 40-day period, USDA must conduct a thorough economic analysis to verify the case for assistance made by the producers in their petition. The analysis must confirm that increases in imports and corresponding declines in average producer prices have taken place and identify alternative causes for the price decline. During the first 10 days of the period, the petitioners may request a public hearing to present their case in more detail. The economic analysis and any additional information presented in a hearing is then reviewed by a technical panel of USDA economists. The technical panel examines the data provided in the petition and the related economic study completed by the economic Research Service and then must make a recommendation to approve or not approve the petition to the Administrator, FAS. After the Administrator has made a certification determination, it must be announced by the Department in a press release or by a notice published in the Federal Register. To meet the 40-day deadline with appropriate thoroughness and care, FAS must manage the above process efficiently. Taking less than 40 days could deny producers their right to full and fair consideration of their petition. Taking more than 40 days, denies them the opportunity for rapid adjustment relief, which is the intention of Congress. Thus the 40-day target for announcing a determination remains fixed from year to year.

Year Target Actual
2004 40 39.6
2005 40 36.4
2006 40 35
2007 40 0
2008 40
2009 40
Annual Efficiency

Measure: Timely certification or de-certification of petitions prior to the beginning of a second, or subsequent year.


Explanation:Once a petition is certified as approved by the FAS Administrator, it remains in effect until the FAS Administrator determines that the required conditions for assistance no longer exist. The Administrator must make this determination annually prior to the date (month and day) when the petition was first certified. An efficiently managed program should be able to evaluate and either re-certify or cancel 100 % of all previously approved petitions prior to their anniversary date.

Year Target Actual
2003 0 0
2004 100% 100%
2005 100% 100%
2006 100% 100%
2007 100% N/A
2008 100%
2009 100%

Questions/Answers (Detailed Assessment)

Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design
Number Question Answer Score
1.1

Is the program purpose clear?

Explanation: The purpose of the Program is to assist agricultural producers (and qualified fishermen) to adjust to import competition. Trade adjustment is defined in the Trade Act of 1974.

Evidence: The Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. 2551, et seq.) as amended by the Trade Act of 2002 established a new program called Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers. The 1974 legislation decreed that the purpose of the program is to assist domestic industry in making a positive adjustment to import competition and provide greater economic and social benefits than costs. Positive adjustment to import competition, as defined by the Act, occurs when the domestic industry is able to compete successfully with imports after actions taken under the Act terminate, or the domestic industry experiences an orderly transfer of resources to other productive pursuits; and dislocated workers in the industry experience an orderly transition to productive pursuits. See Part 1 of Subchapter II, Section 2251. Action to facilitate positive adjustment to import competition. http://grande.nal.usda.gov/ric/funding.php?rec_id=125&mode=show_reference

Yes 20%
1.2

Does the program address a specific and existing problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: Trade liberalization will result in a drop in some import prices due to shifts in comparative advantage and the removal of border protection. The TAA Program for Farmers addresses the economic hardship that occurs when increases in like or directly competitive imports contribute importantly to a significant (20 percent or greater) decline in domestic producer prices during a marketing year compared to the average of producer prices for the preceeding 5 marketing years. The TAA program will train producers to become more competitive, or to enter new fields of specialization.

Evidence: The U.S. has implemented 14 free trade agreements in the past six years, which will open markets to U.S. products while reducing barriers to agricultural imports in the U.S. The U.S. is also actively negotiating for multilateral reductions in trade distorting subsidies through the World Trade Organization (WTO). 19 U.S.C., Chapter 12, Subchapter II, Part 6, Section 2401a(c). 7 CFR 1530.203(a).

YES 20%
1.3

Is the program designed so that it is not redundant or duplicative of any other Federal, state, local or private effort?

Explanation: Though there are other government programs that deal with trade adjustment, producers covered by this program are usually ineligible to participate in those programs because they are business owners and not workers. Because farmers were not eligible for the Department of Labor's (DOL) TAA, TAA for farmers was included in the Trade Act of 2002. Farmers have traditionally received technical assistance from the Extension Service of the Department of Agriculture and not from other Federal agencies. Participants in this program must certify that they have not received cash benefits under any of the other provisions of the Trade Act of 1974. If a producer both qualifies for and desires job retraining in a non-agricultural occupation, this aspect of the program is the responsibility of the DOL. USDA therefore is not to engage in a jobs training program that would duplicate DOL programs. USDA is not aware of any other similar or duplicative State, local or private program that addresses import adjustment.

Evidence: 7 CFR 1580.102 Definitions. Producer means a person who is either an owner, operator, landlord, tenant, or sharecropper, who shares in the risk of producing a crop and who is entitled to share in the crop available for marketing from the farm, or a qualified fisherman. Qualified fisherman means a person whose catch competes in the marketplace with like or directly competitive aquaculture products and report net fishing income to the Internal Revenue Service. 19 U.S.C., Sec. 2401e(a)(1)(B). The producer certifies that the producer has not received cash benefits under any provision of this title other than this chapter. 19 U.S.C., Sec. 2401e(a)(1)(D). The producer certifies that the producer has met with an Extension Service employee or agent to obtain, at not cost to the producer, information and technical assistance that will assist the producer in adjusting to import competition with respect to the adversely affected agricultural commodity 19 U.S.C., Sec. 2401e(d) Limitations on other Assistance. - An agricultural commodity producer entitled to receive a cash benefit under this chapter (2) shall be entitled to employment services and training benefits under part II of subchapter B of chapter 2. 7 CFR 1580.302(e). Producers that furnish all certifications required under §1580.301(e) shall be entitled to employment services and training benefits under trade adjustment assistance for workers managed by the Department of Labor.

YES 20%
1.4

Is the program design free of major flaws that would limit the program's effectiveness or efficiency?

Explanation: No, the program design is not free of major flaws that would limit the program's effectiveness or efficiency. The program has been very costly to administer, with administrative costs exceeding the program's monetary benefits in at least one year of the program. Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers was designed to comply with legislative requirements and estimated annual expenditures of up to $90 million. The legislation requires that services to producers be provided to producers rapidly in order for them to adjust effectively to the adverse impact of import competition. Therefore, USDA has put into place an infrastructure of resources that is prepared to respond almost immediately to producers' requests for assistance. Most of these resources are provided to the Foreign Agricultural Service by other USDA agencies under cost reimbursable agreements, which include fixed and variable expenses. Thus, the administration of TAA incurred numerous startpup costs and annual fixed costs, irrespective of the number of petitions filed by producers and certified for benefits. The number of applicants is unpredictable. Because the farm and fishing economy is currently healthy, relatively few petitions have been filed and certified. Therefore, TAA has been expensive to administer in relation to the number of producers reached to date. To reduce the cost of administration, provisions of the legislation that require a rapid response to producer petitions would have to be changed.

Evidence: 12 producer petitions were certified in fiscal 2004; FSA processed 6,323 applications for assistance, at an administrative cost of $2.7 million. This is in addition to $6.3 million in administrative costs in 2003, which were used to get the program up and running and to meet with Alaskan Salmon fisherman so that they might qualify for financial assistance in fiscal 2004. In Alaska, between January 20 and June 30, 2004, 10 trainers delivered 245 workshops in 83 communities. To reach fishermen in remote villages, the trainers conducted 56 workshops by audio conference. Cash payments were made to 4,436 applicants. In fiscal 2005, 14 producer petitions were certified; FSA processed 5,462 applications for assistance at an administrative cost of nearly $6.5 million, or an average cost of nearly $1200 per application. Cash assistnace was provided to 3,606 applicants. During the first two years of the program, the Extension Service provided free technical assistance to 8,342 producers in 42 states, the cost of which is charged to program administration.

NO 0%
1.5

Is the program design effectively targeted so that resources will address the program's purpose directly and will reach intended beneficiaries?

Explanation: Multiple factors, including trade liberalization and rapid shifts in compaative advantage, may cause some import prices to decline rapidly within a short period of time. A program that assists producers to adjust to severe price declines can help maintain producer and public spuuort for further trade liberalization and globalization. However, the administrative cost of this program is very high, with little evidence to support the notion that producers in import affected industries are using the TAA training programs to qualify themselves for alternative types of work, or to become more competitive. This program provides a narrow set of expensive benefits (training and income support), and relies on DOL programs to provide additional training and job search assistance. Though it is too soon to accurately determine, it is possible that TAA training may attract workers wanting income support, not because it leads to successful training and shifts in commodity production that would lead to positive market outcomes.

Evidence: 12 producer petitions certified in fiscal 2004; cash assistance was provided to 4,436 applicants at an administrative cost of $2.7 million. This is in addition to $6.3 million in administrative costs in 2003, which were used to get the program up and running and to meet with Alaskan Salmon fisherman so that they could qualify for assistance in fiscal 2004. 14 producer petitions certified in fiscal 2005; cash assistance was provided to 3,606 applicants at an administrative cost of nearly $6.5 million, at an average cost of nearly $1800 per application.

NO 0%
Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design Score 60%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning
Number Question Answer Score
2.1

Does the program have a limited number of specific long-term performance measures that focus on outcomes and meaningfully reflect the purpose of the program?

Explanation: A YES answer requires at least two long-term measures that focus on outcomes. The Trade Act of 1974 states that positive adjustment occurs when the domestic industry is able to compete successfully with imports after actions taken under the Act terminate, or the domestic industry experiences an orderly transfer of resources to other productive pursuits. The program has only one long-term measure, which is the percent of producers that adjusted to import competition, who credit TAA as being useful in making their adjustment.

Evidence: See the performance measure 2. A rigorous independent evaluation of the TAA Program was commissioned in November 2005 and results are expected after June 1, 2006. The evaluation involves asking producers who have completed the program questions pertinent to the performance elements. Once the producer responses have been received and tabulated, baseline data will be developed. Program managers expect to continue to evaluate the program on an annual basis in order to determine whether targets are being achieved, and if not, why not. Additionally , CSREES looks to expand follow-on contact with those receiving intensive technical assistance to determine how they changed business operations in their quest to adjust to import competition with the aim of aggregating data to estimate economic impacts resulting from the intensive assistance.

NO 0%
2.2

Does the program have ambitious targets and timeframes for its long-term measures?

Explanation: The baselines and targets are still under development. However, the initial targets , which are just placeholders at this point are not ambitious. The program expects more than 50 percent of producers to credit TAA as being useful in making their adjustment to import competition in its fifth year of operation.

Evidence: These programs are costly to administer. Why provide training if we only expect 50 percent of participants find it helpful in adjusting to import competition? Targets will be refined and made more ambitious once the evaluation noted in 2.1 one above is complete, on or about June 1, 2006. At this point, with only two years of TAA Program operational experience completed, no other data exists on which to base short- and long-term targets. Evaluation of this data may lead to some adjustments in short- and long-term performance targets.

NO 0%
2.3

Does the program have a limited number of specific annual performance measures that can demonstrate progress toward achieving the program's long-term goals?

Explanation: The program has five annual performance measures that demonstrate progress toward the programs long-term goal described in 2.1 above. Every year, the program will measure the percent of producers who have completed the program during the previous 12 months and report that they adjusted to import competition and credit TAA as being useful in making their adjustment. In addition, the program will measure the percent of producers who identify Phase I technical training provided by the Extension Service as useful in adjusting, the percent who identify Phase II intensive training as useful, the percent who identify the cash allowance as useful, and the percent who apply for Department of Labor retraining benefits. These latter four measures are intended to help program managers identify from year-to-year the strengths and weaknesses of the program. However, the scores that measure the usefulness of these four benefits are expected to rise and fall from year to year depending upon the ever changing mix of petitions that terminate during that year. This is due to the fact that the effectiveness of a particular adjustment remedy may vary from year to year reflecting the economic challenge posed by different imports.

Evidence: See performance measure 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6. PLEASE ADD 7: Percent of applicants that sign-up for Phase II training.

YES 12%
2.4

Does the program have baselines and ambitious targets for its annual measures?

Explanation: Baselines have not yet been established and the preliminary targets are not ambitious. The administrators of the program expect that 15 percent find the mandatory training to be useful, and that only 35 percent find the secondary training useful.The first performance measure serves as a composite of all five annual measures. For this measure, the program expects 30 percent of producers to credit TAA as being useful in making their adjustment to import competition.

Evidence: Once the evaluation noted in 2.1 one above is complete, on or about June 1, 2006, the annual performance measure may be refined based on baseline data gathered as part of the first year's evaluation. At this point, with only two years of TAA Program operational experience completed, no other data exists on which to base short- and long-term targets.

NO 0%
2.5

Do all partners (including grantees, sub-grantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, and other government partners) commit to and work toward the annual and/or long-term goals of the program?

Explanation: All involved Federal agencies (FAS, FSA, ERS, CSREES), university partners (regional Risk Management Education Centers), and the Extension Service take their program responsibilities seriously, as clearly reflected in their respective performance over the last two and one-half years. The Federal partners support the program through Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) and interagency funding agreements. The university partners, namely the Regional Risk Management Education Centers and the Digital Center that coordinate the development and delivery of technical assistance, operate through cooperative agreements which do not allow indirect costs. These MOUs and agreements document the commitment of partners to achieving the annual and long-term goals of the program.

Evidence: Involved Federal agencies have signed MOUs and university partners have signed cooperative agreements which commit them to the goals of the program. (See accompanying CD with copies of MOUs and the model cooperative agreement). The following illustrates the commitment of TAA partners. In late August - early September 2003, two petitions were received and certified on behalf of Alaskan and Washington State salmon fishermen. Immediately, the Director of the Western Center utilized Center and Washington State University resources to commission the Extension Service and Alaska's Marine Advisory Program to prepare technical assistance for Alaskan salmon fishermen even before any Federal TAA dollars were made available. This permitted making available technical assistance to over 500 fishermen in November of 2003. In terms of time, material, travel and per diem costs, Washington State University expended in excess of $100,000 on behalf of the USDA TAA Program that was later reimbursed. The Final Rule implementing the TAA Program for Farmers and Fishermen incorporates timelines for petition review, submission of applications, and completion of training. These time lines have been met continually, because all partners are committed to the efficient operation of the TAA Program. The development of a second phase technical assistance program to help producers adjust more effectively further demonstrates the commitment of the Extension Service partners to the goals of the program (See www.taaforfarmers.org; click on current technical assistance subjects or Assistance provided in the past).

YES 12%
2.6

Are independent evaluations of sufficient scope and quality conducted on a regular basis or as needed to support program improvements and evaluate effectiveness and relevance to the problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: An independent evaluation is currently underway that is designed to establish baseline data for the appropriate performance measures. Surveys of program participants will be conducted on a regular basis to assess the programs effectiveness. The breadth and scope of the current review are extensive, capturing information on each approved commodity and fish species by State for the first two years of the Program (FY 2004 and FY 2005). The Western Center for Farm Management commissioned the evaluation on behalf of the TAA for Farmers Program. The evaluation was designed and implemented by the Economic and Social Sciences Research Center at Washington State University. This Center has thirty years of experience, earning it an outstanding reputation for conducting work that meets the most rigorous scientific and statistical standards. The evaluation has been designed to provide baseline data for estimating and tracking the percentage of farmers and fishermen who have successfully adjusted to import competition, or are engaged in activities with technical assistance providers that hopefully will result in successful adjustment. In 2004, The University of California conducted a brief analysis of the TAA program as it applied to California crops. The study concluded that the price criterion severely limits the number of industries eligible for such relief and the causation criterion further restricts the applicability of the program to California agriculture. In short, the negative impact of imports on California agriculture had not risen to the level required for relief. The study did not address the effectiveness or usefulness of assistance offered to producers.

Evidence: A rigorous independent evaluation of the TAA Program was commissioned in November 2005 and results are expected on or about June 1, 2006. Once received, baseline data will be developed. Short -and long-term targets may be adjusted if earlier estimates prove unrealistic. We expect to continue to evaluate the program on an annual basis in order to determine whether targets are being achieved, and if not, why not. Additionally, CSREES looks to expand follow-on contact with those receiving intense technical assistance to determine how they changed business operations in their quest to successfully adjust to import competition with the aim of aggregating data to estimate economic impacts resulting from the Phase II technical assistance. Henrich Brunke and Daniel Sumner, "Trade Adjustment Assistance and California Commodities," Agricultural Issues Brief No. 25, University of California Agricultural Issues Center, Davis, California, June 2004.

YES 12%
2.7

Are Budget requests explicitly tied to accomplishment of the annual and long-term performance goals, and are the resource needs presented in a complete and transparent manner in the program's budget?

Explanation: The budget is not subject to the annual appropriation process because the Trade Act of 2002 authorizes and appropriates $90 million annually to the program. If funding is not sufficient, the law requires the Department to prorate producer benefits. Also, the program lack acceptable targets for its annual and long-term measures.

Evidence: 19 U.S.C. Sec. 2401g. Authorization or Appropriations. (a) In General. - There are authorized to be appropriated and there are appropriated to the Department of Agriculture not to exceed $90,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2003 through 2007 to carry out the purposes of this chapter. (b) Proportionate Reduction. - If in any year the amount appropriated under this chapter is insufficient to meet the requirements for adjustment assistance payable under this chapter, the amount of assistance payable under this chapter shall be reduced proportionately.

NO 0%
2.8

Has the program taken meaningful steps to correct its strategic planning deficiencies?

Explanation: During the first two years of program operations, FAS focused its attention of addressing immediate program needs, for example, getting the application and payment system automated, improving communications between Washington managers and FSA field offices that were receiving producer applications, and developing effective tools and programs for delivering technical assistance. FAS is now taking steps to address the strategic planning needs of the program. It has established performance measures and targets based on the program's goals as defined in the Trade Act of 1974. It is now in the process of collecting data to establish performance base lines and track annual progress. Close communication regarding future program needs among USDA program partners continues. Likewise, CSREES and the university partners are in almost daily contact to ensure the effectiveness of training programs.

Evidence: FAS has established five short-term goals, one long-term goal, and two efficiency measures in the PART. CSREES TAA Technical Assistance Guidelines formalize procedures and responsibilities of CSREES headquarters, the regional RME Centers, and Extension Service agents and employees for the development and delivery of technical assistance to farmers and fishermen. These manuals document the results of the strategic planning process and are included as back-up materials on the CD provided along with this PART.

YES 12%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning Score 50%
Section 3 - Program Management
Number Question Answer Score
3.1

Does the agency regularly collect timely and credible performance information, including information from key program partners, and use it to manage the program and improve performance?

Explanation: The agency will be surveying all TAA participants annually to assess whether the technical assistance provided by the program is effective. Additionally, FAS tracks all specified deadlines regarding petition certification, ERS validation studies, CSREES technical information development and delivery schedules, and petition re-certification procedures. FSA provides FAS bi-weekly reports on applicant sign-up numbers and the status of payments. FAS can obtain this information daily, if needed. An on-going evaluation being conducted by the Economics and Social Science research Center at Washington State University is scheduled to be completed on or about May 1, 2006 and will provide baseline data. Findings from that evaluation will also be used to make changes to the program management with the aim of improving performance. Annual progress reports from university partners document the development and delivery of technical assistance.

Evidence: The accompanying CD has back-up information regarding this question. An example of an annual accomplishments report from the Digital Center for Risk management Education is included that notes the coordination and electronic storing of all materials developed as part of the technical assistance and delivery program to date. This report and others are used by CSREES to document accomplishments and adherence to agreed to performance measures. (see www.taaforfarmers.org for additional materials). Discussions with technical assistance developers and deliverers and with the regional Center Directors brought out that behavioral change would probably not come about from the 2-3 hour workshops, but would, if more intensive technical assistance, customized to the individual, were provided. Additionally, 80 percent of the Idaho potato farmers who attended the technical assistance workshops stated that they were interested in more intensive technical assistance customized to their own farms and businesses. Hence Phase II technical assistance was developed as an optional assistance plan for farmers and fishermen. FAS managers have conducted on-site visits to Alaska and California to assess the effectiveness of TAA services close up and get direct feedback from program partners and program beneficiaries.

YES 14%
3.2

Are Federal managers and program partners (including grantees, sub-grantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, and other government partners) held accountable for cost, schedule and performance results?

Explanation: The authorizing legislation and Final Rule governing the TAA Program established a series of strict deadlines for the activities involved in carrying out the TAA Program for farmers, and those timelines are monitored by FAS program managers, who are held accountable for satisfactory performance. The performance standards of program managers contain elements holding them accountable to achieving program results. To date, all deadlines and schedules have been met in carrying out the purposes and goals of the TAA Program.

Evidence: FAS reviews and monitors the FSA weekly status reports of producer payments. FAS reviews the CSREES budgets in preparing annual apportionments. CSREES reviews each of the four regional center budgets and the Digital Center budget. Expenditures of university partners are monitored on an annual basis as required under CSREES terms and conditions which are based on relevant OMB circulars and statutory requirements. Regional Centers work with technical assistance development and delivery teams and provide funds on a sub-contract basis for the delivery of technical assistance curricula and the delivery of same to farmers and fishermen that meet established standards. (See the accompanying CD that includes CSREES Terms and Conditions, a spreadsheet of initial budgets for the time frame FYs 2003-4  2007, an example of an annual progress report provided by the Digital Center, and a copy of the Alaskan Salmon technical assistance manual. Also see www.taaforfarmers.org for other examples of current and past technical assistance manuals, power point presentations, and workshop schedules). Performance elements and standards of FAS program managers. PLEASE PROVIDE SO WE CAN CHANGE ANSWER TO YES.

YES 14%
3.3

Are funds (Federal and partners') obligated in a timely manner, spent for the intended purpose and accurately reported?

Explanation: Funds are obligated consistently with the overall program plan. There typically are unobligated funds remaining at the end of the year as a result of limited applications. The USDA agencies that conduct the program, have established schedules for obligations that appropriately correspond to the resource needs of the program plan. A Memorandum of Understanding between FAS and ERS provides for a fixed amount of funds to be obligated each year to cover the cost of ERS program support, including a finite number of analytical reports. If this number is exceeded, the MOU provides a schedule for reimbursing ERS a specific dollar amount for each additional report. A MOU between FAS and FSA establishes a schedule for FSA to provide FAS a budget for providing administrative and technical support for the program. Concerning producer allowances, FSA immediately establishes an obligation at the time a producer applies for assistance. FSA computer software programs provide the checks that prevent excessive or unauthorized payments to producers. For example, the software limits each producer to TAA cash benefits of no more than $10,000 per year, limits total TAA and counter-cyclical payments to no more than $65,000 per crop year, and denies payments to producers who exceed the gross income ceiling. The regulation contains provisions requiring that producers maintain their records in support of payments for audit purpose. FAS approves an annual transfer of funds to CSREES for technical assistance based on the presentation of a budget supported by appropriate justifications. CSREES provides its cost data on a per-individual-trained basis. After training is completed, CSREES provides FAS reports summarizing the courses and seminars given, the locations of training, and number of individuals in attendance.

Evidence: Form FSA-229. MOUs with ERS and FSA. 7 CFR 1580.502 7 CFR 1580.503 7 CFR 1580.504

YES 14%
3.4

Does the program have procedures (e.g. competitive sourcing/cost comparisons, IT improvements, appropriate incentives) to measure and achieve efficiencies and cost effectiveness in program execution?

Explanation: The program currently does not have procedures to measure and achieve efficiencies and cost effectiveness in program execution. This program has been extremely costly to administer, since its inception. The FSA cost of administering the program appears to be excessively costly. This reflects the mobilization and training of FSA's vast network of county offices to process producer applications for benefits, the writing of computer software to administer the program's complex payment criteria and satisfy the President's E-Gov Directive, and the temporary assignment of staff to Alaska in order to help salmon fishermen submit application for assistance, as required by the legislation. The program's administrators have contracted out the analysis required to evaluate a producer petition to the Economic Research Service, which provides highly trained economists for this purpose at a moments notice for a reasonable fee. The Extension Service provides free technical training services as required by The Trade Act. Technical information is efficiently provided to producers in standardized pre-packaged formats using internet web sites. The PART has two annual efficiency measures: the average number of days to make a petition certification determination, and the timely certification or de-certification of subsequent-year petitions. These measures are meeting their targets. By satisfying these two efficiency measures, FAS ensures that program benefits are available to producers within months of their filing a valid petition. However, these measures do not assess the benefit/cost ratio of the program, or whether it could be administered in a less costly way.

Evidence: In 2005, FSA received $966,479 for staff and administrative support of TAA for farmers. Over that same period, 5462 TAA applications were submitted to FSA county offices. Based on this data, FSA received about $177 per submitted application for their services. In addition to the processing of TAA applications, FSA review a producer's crop production data, gross income and net income supporting documentation, authorization for direct deposit of a cash payment, Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification, and Farm Oprerating Plan for payment eligivility review. However, the cost of services provided seems excessive. Possibly the workload model needs some updating, given the cost per application. MOUs with ERS, FSA, and CSREES. The average processing time for petition review is 36 days. http://www.taaforfarmers.org/ See performance measures 7 and 8.

NO 0%
3.5

Does the program collaborate and coordinate effectively with related programs?

Explanation: To provide its basic Phase I technical assist program, CSREES coordinates the delivery of readily available, off-the-shelf research and technical information to producers. The Digital Center provides this information in a comprehensive library on a specially created web site that includes links to related materials and sources. As a result, all relevant materials are efficiently made available for the maximum benefit of producers. Producers, eligible to receive a cash payment, may apply to the Department of Labor (DOL) for employment services and training benefits under the latters trade adjustment assistance program. To prove eligibility, all the producer needs is a signed copy of Form FSA-229, Application for Trade Adjustment Assistance, indicating eligibility for a cash payment. In the future, the DOL will have on-line access to the FSA applicant database to confirm the eligibility of applicants electronically. FAS program officials have met with Labor and Commerce officials to coordinate program operations.

Evidence: 19 U.S.C., Sec. 2401e(e) Producers that furnish all certifications required under §1580.301(e) shall be entitled to employment services and training benefits under trade adjustment assistance for workers managed by the Department of Labor.

YES 14%
3.6

Does the program use strong financial management practices?

Explanation: The TAA financial management system is integrated with FSAs existing farm program payment databases which was found to have a number of material weaknesses in the November 2005 OIG audit. However, USDA has developed specially written TAA software crosschecks producer payments against other farm program payments to ensure that TAA payments comply with the Trade Act's TAA allowance limit of $10,000 per year per person and $65,000 per year combined limit on counter-cyclical and TAA payments.

Evidence: OIG audit 06401-20-FM. Most CCC financial audits have provided FSA financial management systems a clean bill of health.

NO 0%
3.7

Has the program taken meaningful steps to address its management deficiencies?

Explanation: FAS constantly seeks feedback from FSA, ERS and CSREES regarding program operations. FAS and CREES communicate at least bi-weekly, and CSREES and the directors of the regional RME centers and the Digital Center, meet at least twice a year, at which times TAA issues are discussed. Between meetings, conference calls are held as the situation dictates. When issues arise, FAS takes direct action to rectify the situation. Additionally, an on-going independent evaluation will be completed on or about June 1, 2006, and the findings from that will also assist to determine what steps are needed, if any, to improve the management of the TAA Program.

Evidence: To date, no significant management problem has been identified or alluded to by program managers or the recipients of program benefits. However, when problems do arise, they are addressed directly. For example, when it came to the attention of FAS that some payments were held up due to computer data management limitations, the FAS and FSA Administrators met to find an expeditious solution to the problem. As another example, when the Office of General Counsel discovered a conflict in the Trade Act and the Final Rule regarding the appeals process to be followed by applicants who had been denied TAA benefits, the Final Rule was amended November 1, 2004 to make it consistent with the Trade Act and provide a clear and consistent process for handling appeals. The FAS, FSA, and CSREES Operational Guides specify agency and partner responsibilities in carrying out the TAA Program for Farmers. See the accompanying CD for the FAS, FSA, and CSREES Operational Guides and a copy of the evaluation questionnaire.

YES 14%
Section 3 - Program Management Score 71%
Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability
Number Question Answer Score
4.1

Has the program demonstrated adequate progress in achieving its long-term performance goals?

Explanation: The TAA Program for Farmers long-term goal is to assist farmers and fishermen successfully adjust to import competition by becoming more competitive and profitable through the provision of technical assistance and cash payments, or if this is not possible, facilitate the producers' retraining in other occupations. An independent evaluation currently in progress is designed to provide base line data and annual data for 2004 and 2005. The evaluation is expected to be completed on or about June 1, 2006. During the first two years of operations, anecdotal evidence suggests that progress is being made toward achieving the programs long-term performance goal. For example, 88 percent of Arkansas catfish producers rated the technical assistance workshops 4 or above, with 5 being the highest score. This would suggest that the producers found the workshops useful in helping them to adjust to import competition. It is expected, therefore, that after a period of 3-5 years, real progress can be measured toward reaching the long-term goal.

Evidence: While awaiting the collection and analysis of performance data, it should be noted that annual program requirements are being met. Applicants have easy access to sign up for program benefits; all applicants have had at least one, if not more, opportunities to receive technical assistance; cash allowance have been paid to those eligible, and applicants eligible and desiring DOL job retraining benefits have applied for them. For example, in FY 2004, over 6,000 salmon fishermen in Washington and Alaska applied for TAA. Over 200 technical assistance workshops or one-on-one sessions were conducted in 167 communities in these two states. During FY 2004, 2,402 shrimp harvesters across the South applied for and received TAA technical benefits. The program served 379 catfish farmers. All applicants had an opportunity to attend at least one workshop, and if that was not convenient, they could receive training at a local Extension Service office or even their business location. While the functional requirements of the program are being met in a timely manner, the results of the evaluation now underway will permit FAS to confirm its utility in helping producers actually embark on strategies to enhance their competitiveness.

No 0%
4.2

Does the program (including program partners) achieve its annual performance goals?

Explanation: FAS expects that 30 percent of applicants who adjust to import competition will report that they found the program useful in making their adjustment. Until the evaluation is concluded and the results summarized, the program cannot certify to achieving its performance goals.

Evidence: See response to 4.1 FAS can certify that in fiscal 2005 100% of applicants had an opportunity to attend a workshop or receive one-on-one training. The program made 3,703 payments; only 24 remain to be paid as of March 31. Informal evaluations at the conclusions of some of the Phase I technical workshops suggest that farmers and fishermen felt the training was valuable and should help them adjust to import competition. An evaluation conducted at the close of the Idaho potato technical assistance workshops resulted in 80% of the participants expressing a desire for more intensive technical assistance customized to their business or enterprise operation. This certainly suggests that annual performance goals are being achieved, in that such short term goals involve whether eligible applicants believe Phase I technical assistance is helpful in assisting them to adjust to import competition.

No 0%
4.3

Does the program demonstrate improved efficiencies or cost effectiveness in achieving program goals each year?

Explanation: The administrative cost of operating this program is high since this program demands vary from year-to-year. Fixed expenses exist to maintain various databases and prvide adequate funding to FSA county offices and CSREES in the event that a program is announced. The annual budgets proposed by FAS and approved by OMB are for those fixed costs associated with this program. These expenses are necessary to process 1 or thousands of applications. Because this program is exposed to year-to-year uncertainties on the number of petitions and applications approved, FAS and its partners established the fiscal policies now in place. However, program managers have refined their procedures for providing assistance to fishermen. Processes and procedures have been defined covering Federal agency responsibilities. The CSREES TAA Program Technical Assistance Operation Guideline specifies procedures and responsibilities for all participating parties, including CSREES, regional centers, the Digital center on RME Management, State Extension Service TAA Coordinators, TAA technical assistance development team leaders and team members, trainers training the trainers, and those Extension Service agents and employees who deliver the technical assistance to farmers and fishermen. Specific procedures are in place for the provision of both Phase I and Phase II technical assistance development and delivery.

Evidence: Administrative cost per averaged $177 per submitted application in 2005. Efficiencies and cost effectiveness vary from year to year due to the changing nature and number of petitions being managed. Program services may change from state to state as well. All this affects the cost of providing benefits to producers. However, the procedures and processes have been refined over the last two years strongly indicating that efficiencies and cost effectiveness have improved. For example, after gaining experience with the cost of developing technical assistance information, common budget templates were developed to estimate costs associated with first the development of the information, and second with the delivery of that information to farmers and fishermen (see www.taaforfarmers.org). During the program's first year, a system for entering applications into the FSA electronic database was not functional for many months. This system is now operational, and applications are immediately entered into the database, and the information is made readily available to program managers. During the first year, many applicants were first-time visitors to the FSA Service Center. As a result, they had to fill out certain FSA forms regarding their farm or fishing business. However, once in the system, they did not have to complete some of these forms over again during the second year.

NO 0%
4.4

Does the performance of this program compare favorably to other programs, including government, private, etc., with similar purpose and goals?

Explanation: The TAA Program for Farmers and Fishermen, while different from the other two TAA Programs (Depts. of Commerce and Labor), compares favorably. With regard to technical assistance, three topic areas are required by the Trade Act: assistance with commodity substitution, assistance to improve productivity and marketing, and assistance in accessing other Federal programs that provide benefits and services to workers facing economic distress. These three topic areas offer a range of instruction that compares favorably to other Extension Service farm management programs. Based on experiences gained in FY 2004 and FY 2005, a budget template was developed for the effective delivery of technical assistance to farmers and fishermen. The budget template was reviewed by agbusiness management consultants, who rated it as reasonable and cost efficient.

Evidence: The TAA Program for Farmers and Fishermen is different than any existing TAA program. The performance of the TAA Program, given the limitations and requirements of the authorizing legislation and the TAA for Farmers Program Final Rule, compares favorably to other like programs. For example, a group of business consultants felt that the budget templates put together for intensive technical assistance were quite reasonable. Under TAA for Farmers, the cost of the two-year intensive training program is capped at $2,000 per individual. Flaws in the generic TAA program were highlighted in that program's PART analysis.

YES 20%
4.5

Do independent evaluations of sufficient scope and quality indicate that the program is effective and achieving results?

Explanation: The independent evaluation that is to be completed on or about June 1, 2006 is expected to provide data that will indicate that the TAA Program for Farmers and Fishermen as implemented and managed by FAS and the other involved USDA agencies and participating universities is effective and achieving results.

Evidence: Because the program has been underway for only two years, it has not been the focus of outside or independent evaluations. The evaluation that is currently underway may be considered in some respects independent. It was designed by the Economics and Social Sciences Research Center at the University of Maryland to provide baseline data through which progress toward long-term goals will be able to be measured. This scientifically rigorous evaluation is of broad scope so as to incorporate the necessary data to also estimate annual data sets for each commodity, State and eligible applicants, and will provide indications that the program is effective and achieving results. The evaluation results are expected to be available on or about June 1, 2006.

NO 0%
Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability Score 20%


Last updated: 09062008.2006SPR