U.S. Department of Agriculture

Foreign Agriculture Service Could Benefit from Better Strategic Planning Gao ID: GGD-95-225 September 28, 1995

International agricultural trade has become highly competitive, and the United State increasingly confronts competitors using sophisticated marketing practices. The Foreign Agricultural Service, part of the Agriculture Department (USDA), oversees a variety of export promotion programs aimed at boosting U.S. exports of agricultural commodities. The Service's mission statement calls for it to gather and report information about agricultural commodities in foreign countries, improve access to foreign markets, and promote greater foreign consumption of U.S. agricultural commodities. This report examines whether the Service has used its resources in the most effective way to accomplish its mission. GAO reviews the Service's (1) strategic planning, specifically whether USDA's long-term agricultural trade strategy contributed to effective strategic planning by the Service; (2) foreign service, particularly whether its operations were planned and managed to use its available resources effectively; and (3) commodity reporting, specifically the extent to which the Service's commodity reporting was an effective use of resources.

GAO found that: (1) FAS long-term agricultural trade strategy (LATS) and country marketing plans lack the specificity and measurable goals that are necessary to establish priorities and allocate resources efficiently and effectively; (2) FAS decisions concerning its overseas offices and its overall workforce could be done on a more systematic basis and thus enhance the probability of meeting FAS priority objectives; (3) FAS lack of strategic planning has hindered its ability to consider other options that may produce more favorable outcomes in meeting its strategic objectives; (4) FAS foreign service officers devote a considerable portion of their time to commodity reporting without the benefit of clear strategic priorities to guide their efforts; and (5) FAS should pursue potential opportunities to reduce and eliminate reporting that does not efficiently contribute to its strategic priorities.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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