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GAO Review of USDA Thrifty Food Plan Reevaluation Requested by Boozman & Thompson Shows Egregious Overreach & Flawed Process

WASHINGTON—The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the process by which the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) was updated was marred by egregious executive overreach, lacked an economic peer-review process, and included flawed—even legally questionable—decision-making that resulted in a cost to American taxpayers of more than a quarter-trillion dollars according to the Congressional Budget Office.

GAO’s evaluation—undertaken at the request of U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and U.S. Representative Glenn "GT" Thompson, chairman-elect, House Committee on Agriculture—indicates that U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) neglected to provide documentation or justification for decisions, did not seek out or provide sufficient information for independent, external peer review, and did not meet any project management standards.  

“This report shows the problems with this process are far greater than USDA merely cutting corners. It is evident that the department’s political leadership set out to achieve a predetermined outcome and purposefully ignored important steps in the process that would get in their way. This is the opposite of good governance, and it shows that poor decision-making happens when the administration operates in a vacuum without proper oversight,” said Boozman.   

"For USDA, sidestepping Congress seems to have become a habit, but today’s report from GAO details a particularly egregious effort to pull the wool over the eyes of the public as it relates to the Thrifty Food Plan Update. USDA failed to fully disclose its rationale for decisions, to document its process and outcomes, and to sufficiently analyze the impacts of its choices, leaving taxpayers to foot the $256 billion bill. I am grateful to Comptroller Dodaro and his team for looking into this,” said Thompson.

In August 2021, the two Republican leaders sent a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro asking GAO to review the process by which the 2021 Thrifty Food Plan Update—the basis for maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—was reevaluated to ensure it was conducted with the utmost integrity and credibility and is based on sound data.

The full report is available here.