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Farm support programs continue to have problems, according to the Auditor General. (CBC)

Government aid to farmers continues to be bogged down in paperwork, according to a new report from the federal Auditor General. 

"We found that it could take up to two years for a producer to receive a payment, subsequent to an income loss," the report, released Tuesday, said.

The auditor general looked at several farm assistance programs, including the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS), which was in operation from 2004 to 2007 and AgriStability and AgriInvest. The auditor said that progress had been made on some issues, but added that many "long-standing concerns remain."

Among them, the auditor flagged:

  • Unclear program objectives.
  • Lack of timely access to program funding.
  • Program complexity.

One recurring problem area, according to the auditor, is the amount of time it takes government officials to review the paperwork farmers supply, when they apply for assistance.

The government rarely meets its own targets for processing applications, which is 75 percent of applications completed within 75 days of a completed application's arrival.

"The department has yet to meet its time standard," the auditor found.

Poor reporting

As well, according to the auditor, government officials have been selective when it comes reporting on their performance.

"We noted that the department publicly reports only on applications processed in determining its success in meeting the service standard," the auditor said. "If it included the backlog of applications that have not yet been processed, its monthly success rate would drop."

The auditor provided a stark example of how officials manipulate their performance reports.

"In January 2011, 23 percent of processed applications for the 2009 program year met the 75-day standard. However, when unprocessed applications already beyond the 75-day standard were included, only 11 percent met the 75-day service standard."

In response to the auditor's findings, the department said it was planning to make improvements on how it reports, by April of 2013.