Farmers on track to e-file for subsidies

The House Agriculture Committee approved legislation (H.R. 852) on Wednesday

that would let farmers file federal paperwork electronically.

The bill would require the Agriculture Department to establish a system

that would let farmers use the Internet to request federal subsidies. The

system would have to be available within six months of the bill's passage.

The legislation now goes to the Senate for action.

"The ability to download and submit forms via the Internet will help reduce

the amount of time producers must spend away from their crops doing paperwork,"

said Rep. Larry Combest (R-Texas), the committee chairman.

The legislation also would give the public Internet access to information

such as farm programs and quarterly trade and economic reports. Most of

that information is available on a delayed basis on USDA's World Wide Web

site, but farmers still must file requests for financial help using a pen

and a paper form.

Recent surveys have found that nearly one-third of all farms have access

to the Internet, and 40 percent of all farmers own or lease a computer,

and the number is rising dramatically.

"As people are getting used to getting services on the Internet for other

things — ordering airline tickets or food — they are expecting the government

to provide the same level of service," said William Hadesty, USDA's new

cybersecurity chief.

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