Under the Agriculture Travel Regulation (ATR), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies and staff offices are expected to carefully plan and manage conference and training activities to mitigate the risk or appearance of inappropriate spending and activities. Every proposed conference has to be justified at various levels in light of outreach, programmatic, and employee development objectives. Conference and training management are performed in accordance with the Federal Travel Regulation and General Services Administration (GSA) guidance, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directives, and the ATR. To ensure efficient spending, agencies are encouraged to devise strategic alternatives to government conference and training travel, including local or technological alternatives (e.g. video teleconferencing). All conference and training activities are held at the most cost-effective location, considering such factors as per diem, transportation, and rental of conference or training rooms. When choosing a conference or training location, a cost comparison of at least three geographically diverse viable cities is conducted. In addition, a contracting officer is used to assist in finding the most cost-effective conference or training facility.

In FY 2022, USDA agencies and staff offices provided sponsorship funds to four conference and training events for a total of $1.04 million.

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-246) requires that not later than September 30th of each year, the Secretary of Agriculture shall prepare a report on conferences, with costs greater than $10,000, sponsored or held by the Department of Agriculture or attended by employees of the Department of Agriculture.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-334) amends the reporting threshold from $10,000 to $50,000.

This report will contain the following information for each conference:

  • the name of the conference;
  • the location of the conference;
  • date of the conference;
  • the number of Department of Agriculture employees attending the conference; and
  • the costs (including travel expenses) relating to such conference; and
  • for each conference sponsored or held by the Department of Agriculture for which the Department awarded a procurement contract, a description of the contracting procedures related to such conference.

Conference Transparency Reports