The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the agriculture appropriations bill on Thursday, with an overall discretionary spending level of $20.785 billion.

The allocation for USDA’s Agriculture Research Service (ARS) was closely in-line with the Obama Administration’s proposed budget and the ARS budget for FY2012, at a total of $1.101 billion. USDA’s flagship competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) was increased to $298 million from FY2012 appropriations of $264 million, though it is authorized to receive up to $700 million in the 2008 Farm Bill.

The appropriations measure maintains FY2012 food aid spending under PL-480 Title II at $1.466 billion, $66 million more than requested. The McGovern-Dole international school feeding program was maintained at FY2012 levels of $184 million.

The bill provided $411 million for farm loan programs through the Farm Service Agency (FSA); $1.208 billion for FSA salaries and expenses; and $828 million for Natural Resources Conservation Service programs. The bill also fully funded the Market Access Program (MAP) at $200 million and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program at $34.5 million.

The Senate bill increased Food and Drug Administration (FDA) funding to implement new food safety laws by $12.5 million.

The House Appropriations Committee has not yet considered its version of the FY2013 agriculture measure. The House-passed budget resolution provided a total of $19.405 billion for discretionary agriculture spending, about $1.380 billion less than the Senate allocation.

The House budget also required the House Agriculture Committee to identify $33 billion in reconciliation cuts before the end of this week. The Committee voted April 18 to take the full amount from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as the food stamp program, reductions that are unlikely to become law due to opposition in the Senate.

It is widely expected Congress will approve an omnibus appropriations measure sometime in the fall to fund the government, which may or may not take into consideration the appropriations committees’ work.

More on the agriculture measure passed this week by Senate Appropriations is at http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm.