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2012 USDA spending bill awaits votes

Appropriations package for fiscal 2012 USDA spending introduced. House vote on spending legislation expected this week. Agriculture agencies and programs will receive a total of $136.6 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding.

On Monday night, Kentucky Rep. Harold Rogers, House Appropriations Committee chairman,  introduced the final conference report for a three-bill appropriations package to fund the Agriculture, Commerce/Justice/Science (CJS), and Transportation/Housing and Urban Development (THUD) spending bills (House Report 112-284) for the remainder of fiscal 2012. The House is expected to vote and the Senate could vote this week on the legislation.

Agriculture agencies and programs will receive a total of $136.6 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding, $4.6 billion less than the president's request. Discretionary funding totals $19.8 billion -- $350 million below last year's level and $2.5 billion less than president's request.  The remaining balance -- nearly $117 billion -- is for mandatory programs, which include farm safety net, export market development, and risk-management programs.

The conference agreement fully funds the Market Access and Foreign Market Development Programs at $200 million and $34.5 million, respectively. The bill also provides $844 million for Natural Resource Conservation Service programs, including $828 million for conservation operations.

The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program is funded at $6.6 billion, which is $570 million above the House-passed level and $36 million above the Senate-passed level.

The Conference Committee approved the three-bill spending package on a bipartisan basis, with all but one of 38 House and Senate conferees approving the package. The measure also contains a Continuing Resolution, which provides funding through Dec. 16, 2011, for those departments and agencies that do not yet have full-year FY 2012 funding.  The current temporary funding for all of the federal government expires Nov. 18.

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