At the request of Senate Ag Committee Chair Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the U.S. Government Accountability Office has summarized its reports on USDA loan programs. The report, which notes that back in 1991 the GAO had put those loan programs into a "high-risk" category, shows over the time period from 1991 to 2002, the programs have improved.
The 1991 alert from GAO was eventually a call to action by Congress and eventual moves through the 1996 Farm Bill and subsequent action by USDA made strives to improve the delinquency rates and reduce losses in the program. According to a cover letter from GAO to Sen. Chambliss, the agency removed USDA's loan programs from the high-risk category in 2001. In 2001, GAO reported that delinquent borrowers owed $1.8 billion on direct loans - about 21% of the outstanding principle on direct loans - which is a significant decrease from past reports. And USDA's direct loan losses of $427 million in fiscal 2000 were the lowest in 10 years.
The GAO prepared a report for Chambliss showing prior findings, which you can check out HERE. The agency has not investigated USDA's loan programs since 2001, and could not comment on their performance.
USDA offers several loan types including the direct farm ownership loans, guaranteed farm ownership loans, direct farm operating loans and guaranteed farm operating loans. There are also emergency disaster loans as well. Sen. Chambliss had held a hearing earlier in June looking into loan programs and had requested this summary report from GAO.