The Senate is considering its Fiscal Year 2012 agriculture appropriations bill — which includes spending levels for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration — this week, with votes on amendments likely to begin Tuesday morning.

The bill includes $20 billion in spending, almost $3 billion more than the House version of the bill, which included a $285 million, or 11 percent, cut to FDA’s budget. The House bill also seeks a $10 million, or 4 percent, cut from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. 

The current Senate bill would boost FDA’s budget by $50 million and keep the FSIS budget flat compared to Fiscal Year 2011.

Though the Senate is more generous than the lower chamber to food and agriculture programs, both parties pointed out that the spending levels are slightly below FY 2011.

“This is a very austere measure,” said Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), who chairs the ag appropriations subcommittee. “Almost every category of funding is lower than last year and much lower than the year before.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), ranking member on the subcommittee, agrees.

“We made many difficult decisions … in tightening our belts and living within our financial means,” he said, according to The Hill.
The agriculture appropriations bill is tied to transportation and commerce spending bills. Lawmakers are calling the package deal a “minibus.” (When Congress considers many different bills together it’s an “omnibus.”)

The fiscal year began Oct. 1, but agencies are currently operating under a stop-gap spending measure. Lawmakers have until Nov. 18 to pass a FY 2012 budget to avert government shutdown.