The Senate last night voted 72 to 26 to approve the $1.1 trillion spending bill, funding federal agencies through the rest of this fiscal year.  The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed by a vote of 359-67 the omnibus appropriations bill earlier this week.  President Obama is expected to sign the bill by tomorrow, when the current continuing resolution funding the government expires and guaranteeing that the government will continue to operate until the end of the 2014 fiscal year on September 30.

The bill provides a total of $1.12 trillion for the government, including $20.9 billion in discretionary funding for the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Farm Credit Administration.  The $20.9 billion in discretionary funding  is $350 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.

Based upon a news release from the House Appropriations Committee, the agriculture bill’s highlights include:

Agricultural Research – The bill provides $2.6 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This includes $316 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, the nation’s competitive agricultural research grant program.  The bill also maintains investments in the nation’s land-grant colleges and universities.

Animal and Plant Health (APHIS) – The legislation includes $821.7 million – equal to the fiscal year 2013 enacted level – for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). This funding will provide support for programs to help control or eradicate plant and animal pests and diseases. In addition to base funding, the bill provides APHIS with one-time funding of $20 million to fight citrus greening, a disease that threatens the $13 billion citrus industry in the United States.

Farm Service Agency (FSA) – The legislation provides $1.5 billion for FSA, which is equal to the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. This funding will support the various farm, conservation, loan, and emergency programs for American farmers and ranchers.  The bill provides a total of $2.4 billion for rural development programs, which is $180 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.

Food Safety and Inspection (FSIS) – The legislation includes more than $1 billion for FSIS, $19 million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.  The funding provided will maintain more than 8,000 frontline inspection personnel for meat, poultry, and egg products at more than 6,200 facilities across the country.

The following bill language regarding poultry inspection, which passed the full House Appropriations bill last year, is also included in this week’s bill that is on the way to the president for his signature:

  • Reducing Foodborne Illnesses –The Committee notes that the current poultry slaughter inspection system has been in place since 1957. On January 27, 2012, USDA proposed a science-based rule that would begin to replace this outdated approach, and replace it with one that is based on pathogen reduction and control. USDA inspectors would monitor establishment process controls in removing diseased birds, ensure compliance with Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plans and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures, conduct ante mortem inspection, and collect samples for pathogen testing. On-line inspectors will still conduct carcass-by-carcass inspection to ensure that diseased carcasses are condemned by establishment workers according to regulatory requirements. The Committee believes that implementation of this system, that has been tested over ten years, will lead to a reduction of pathogens in poultry and a corresponding reduction in foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. The Committee urges the Department to finalize this rule.

Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) – The legislation also restricts the GIPSA Administration  from implementing certain regulations that would allow harmful government interference in the private market for the livestock and poultry industry.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – The FDA receives a total of almost $2.6 billion in discretionary funding in the bill, an increase of $91 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. Total funding for the FDA, including revenue from user fees, is $4.4 billion. In addition to these amounts, the bill provides $85 million to restore the loss of funds due to OMB’s sequester of FDA user fees.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) – Included in the bill is $215 million for the CFTC, which is $100 million below the President’s budget request.

Conservation Programs – The bill provides $826 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service – virtually the same as the fiscal year 2013 enacted level – to help farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners conserve and protect their land.

Food and Nutrition Programs – The legislation contains discretionary funding, as well as mandatory funding required by law, for food and nutrition programs within USDA. This includes funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Child Nutrition programs.

  • WIC – This program provides supplemental nutritional foods needed by pregnant and nursing mothers, babies and young children. The bill provides full funding for WIC at $6.7 billion – $153 million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level – including the replenishment of the contingency reserve.
  • Child nutrition programs – The bill provides for $19.3 billion in required mandatory funding for child nutrition programs. This funding will provide for an estimated 5.6 billion free or reduced-price school lunches and snacks for 32.1 million children who qualify for the program.
  •  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – The bill provides for $82.2 billion in required mandatory spending for SNAP.  This program provides food assistance to more than 47 million Americans on average every month.

Raising the federal debt limit is the next crucial deadline.  Congress agreed to suspend enforcement of the debt limit until February 7 under last October’s agreement to end the government shutdown.  The national debt currently stands at $17.2 trillion. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has warned lawmakers that they must act by late February.  “If Congress is looking at the number the way we are — we have the best data — they would see that they would be looking more at the end of February than any time in March,” Lew said before an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations.