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House Passes Freedom to E-File Act

Today, by vote of 397-1, the House of Representatives passed the Freedom to E-File Act (S. 777), legislation which would allow farmers and ranchers to file paperwork with the U.S. Department of Agriculture electronically.

"As in any other business, advanced technologies and the Internet are becoming increasingly common and important tools for American farmers and ranchers," Combest said.  "This bill will allow farmers to spend more time in the fields with their crops rather than inside  doing paperwork."

The House-passed version of the Freedom to E-File Act largely substitutes the legislative language contained in H.R. 852 for the text of S. 777.  As passed by the House, S. 777 requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish an electronic filing and retrieval system to enable the public to file with USDA all required paperwork electronically.  The bill would also allow the interested public to have access to information on farm programs, quarterly trade, economic and production reports and other similar information.

S. 777 requires that, within 180 days of enactment, the Secretary of Agriculture establish a user-friendly electronic filing and retrieval system, which would allow farmers to download forms from the internet and submit completed and modified forms.  Within two years, the completed system must be fully operational, allowing farmers to retrieve and file all relevant forms with USDA.

"Federal government agencies must move into the 21st Century and realize the possibilities of the technology revolution," said Representative Ray LaHood (R-IL) who sponsored H.R. 852.  "The IRS allows electronic filing and this year over 34 million Americans will take advantage of the convenience of filing online.  America's farmers should be afforded the same opportunity to ease their paperwork burdens when it comes to USDA forms.  This legislation will do just that."