Senate passage yesterday of its nearly $137 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) puts the measure on a path to House-Senate talks to produce final compromise legislation.  The House in June passed its approximately $125 billion spending proposal for USDA and FDA.

A major policy issue that will need to be resolved in the bicameral negotiations is what to do with Senate language -- offered by Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., as a floor amendment and agreed to in an 84-15 vote -- that would deny farm safety net direct payments to recipients with an average adjusted gross income in excess of $1 million. The House bill has no similar language.

Of the total dollars in each bill, the Senate would allow for about $117 billion in mandatory spending, such as farm safety net, conservation, and crop insurance programs. The Senate would allocate nearly $20 billion for discretionary spending, which includes salaries and expenses for USDA and FDA personnel and agencies and USDA research and rural development programs. The House bill contains more than $108 billion for mandatory and about $17 billion for discretionary spending.

Each bill proposes $200 million for the Market Access Program and $34.5 million for the Foreign Market Development Program and an estimated $3.14 billion for federal crop insurance. The two measures differ on other program funding, including domestic and foreign food assistance, conservation operations and technical assistance, research and education, and cooperative extension.

The federal government's 2012 fiscal year began on Oct. 1.  In the absence of final FY 2012 appropriations bills for federal departments and agencies, Congress has approved government-wide temporary spending authority, known as a Continuing Resolution, which expires on Nov. 18.    

Earlier this year, USA Rice communicated to House and Senate appropriators its support for FY 2012 funding for a several programs, including conservation and export promotion.