The U.S. House, late on Thursday, passed a three-bill appropriations package for Fiscal Year 2012. Known as the “minibus,” H.R. 2112 provides money for the Agriculture Department, Commerce-Justice-Science and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development. The House and Senate conference committee worked out the details and approved a spending plan earlier this week by a bi-partisan vote of 38 to 1.

It is the first full-year spending measure to pass through Congress in what has been a long and contentious budget process. In fact, the minibus is operating under the budget constrains outlined by the debt agreement passed in August.

As a basic snapshot of H.R. 2112, it totals nearly $128 billion in discretionary spending through Sept. 30, 2012. It allocates $19.8 billion for USDA, $52.7 billion for Commerce-Justice-Science and $55.6 billion for Transportation-Housing and Urban Development. Of those three, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development is the only one to receive more funding than in Fiscal Year 2011, and that was a $183 million increase.

Just as important, the minibus package also included a provision to fund the federal government through Dec. 16. That action comes close to the wire as a previous stopgap resolution to fund the government expires at midnight on Friday, Nov. 18.

The Senate still needs to vote on the spending deal.

Of specific interest to the meat and poultry sector is the fact that the Agriculture Appropriations portion does not fund additional rulemaking steps for the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration rule. In essence, that step kills the rule. The GISPA rule would have impacted business contract arrangements on both the production and marketing sides of livestock and poultry industries. (See “Deadline for GIPSA funding expected this week”.)

Sectors within the agriculture industry were divided on the rule. The American Meat Industry and some commodity groups, such as the National Pork Producers Council, did not support the GIPSA rule as proposed.

While Congress outlined areas in the 2008 Farm Bill for GISPA to address, the consensus was that USDA’s proposal over-reached that intent. Many Congressmen actively opposed the rule. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) chair of the House agriculture committee, said, "While this rule is intented to promote transparent and efficient markets, I've heard testimony from many industry leaders who argue that this rule will hurt the very producers it is purported to help."

The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union and R-Calf supported USDA’s GISPA rule. “While NFU appreciates that the Agriculture Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2012 largely maintains overall discretionary funding levels, it is a disappointment for family farmers and ranchers,” says Roger Johnson, NFU president. “The bill prevents additional rulemaking for the GIPSA rule that would have addressed the fundamental problem of competition and consolidation in the livestock marketplace.”

The minibus bill also undercut the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act by limiting funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

“NFU will continue to fight for the restoration of fairness in markets,” Johnson adds.

Still, there’s at least a hint of relief in the halls of Congress from the standpoint that with the passage of H.R. 2112, at least some progress is being made.   

“After operating without a real budget through Fiscal Year 2011, I am glad that we were finally able to pass three appropriations bills today,” said Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) on Thursday evening. “While it is simply not possible to give every priority the highest funding level in our austere budget environment…many important federal programs were given their due and that this minibus package will begin to give several of our departments the ability to move forward on plans and priorities.”
Additional plans are underway to move a second fiscal 2012 omnibus package that contains the remaining appropriations bills.