Conference Committee reports ag appropriations bill

The House-Senate Conference Committee released a minibus* appropriations bill on Monday. The $182 billion package would fund the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development for FY 2012 plus contains a continuing resolution to keep the rest of the government going through December 16th. The current funding runs out on Friday.

The bill includes $136.6 billion in funding for agriculture, $117 billion in mandatory funding and $19.8 billion for discretionary funding, a drop from $19.9 billion in 2011.

The plan includes $2.3 billion in disaster aid, a compromise between the House and Senate versions.

The plan fully funds the Market Access and Foreign Market Development Programs at $200 million and $34.5 million, respectively and allocates $844 million for Natural Resource Conservation Service programs.

The Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program is funded at $6.6 billion.

The plan eliminates some changes USDA wants to make to the school lunch menu. The final bill blocks the Ag Department from limiting the servings of potatoes and starchy vegetables, reinstates counting two tablespoons of tomato paste on pizza as a vegetable, delays limits on sodium and delays a required increase in whole grains.

DTN reports the bill also places restrictions on USDA’s implementation of the proposed GIPSA rule. Lawmakers included language restricting USDA from publishing a rule that would cost 100 million dollars to the economy or goes beyond what Congress believes is mandated.

Language that banned USDA inspection of horse meat has been removed opening the door for a return to horse slaughter and processing in the United States.

Both the House and the Senate are expected to vote on the bill this week.

*in the past, Congress would put all pending appropriations bills together into an “omnibus” spending package. This Congress has chosen to create smaller groupings and several “minibus” spending packages.

**Julie Harker and Ken Anderson contributed to this story

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