Hoping to avoid the growing unpopularity of government shutdowns, many House Republicans rushed to the middle of the aisle this week to compromise with their Democrat counterparts to help push through a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that will fund the operation of the federal government through September, 2014.

Following in their footsteps, in a late Thursday session, the U.S. Senate followed suit and in spite of  Tea Party efforts to thwart the proceedings, the spending bill was ratified by a 72-26 roll call vote.

Analysts say the bill should have no problem passing through the executive branch where President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law today (Jan. 17) or before the weekend is over.

While the chances for a new farm bill are looking better, the spending bill already brings some good news to agriculture. For one, agriculture will get a $350 million increase in discretionary spending over last year, a total of $20.9 billion.

 

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Of particular interest, the new spending levels will allow for continuing successful investments in sustainable agriculture research, rural development, conservation, and credit programs. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, in fact, will enjoy a historically high spending level, more than ever before in fact, 18 percent above it highest funding level since its inception in late 1980s.

Another benefit to agriculture in the spending bill is there are no funding cuts to the Conservation Stewardship Program. The bill also does not limit funding for the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, Farmland Protection Program, Wetland Reserve Program, and other conservation programs. Analysts say while conservation program levels for FY2014 represent an increase over FY2013 levels, they still remain below 2011 funding levels.