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USDA RECEIVES INCREASED FUNDING FROM OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL
POLITICO reports:

Our friends on the Budget and Appropriations team are combing through all 2,232 pages of the massive spending bill signed into law last week. USDA and FDA programs will receive about $23.3 billion in discretionary spending through September under H.R. 1625 (115), about $2.4 billion more than fiscal 2017 enacted levels despite the Trump administration's calls for cuts.

Here are 10 key USDA program highlights:

- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or food stamps, receives $74.01 billion in mandatory dollars, a slight increase above the $73.6 billion fiscal 2018 request, but below the $78 billion in current levels. (In a nod to conservatives, the bill specifically says the funding "shall be subject to any work registration or workfare requirements as may be required by law.") The money funds about 42.2 million monthly beneficiaries, according to the Department of Agriculture.

- The Economic Research Service, which provides economic and social science analysis on agriculture, food, environment, and rural development, receives $86.75 million. That's up from the Agriculture Department's request of $77 million.

- The Agricultural Research Service, which oversees projects related to crop and livestock production, food safety and human nutrition, conservation and new agricultural product development, gets $1.2 billion, up from $993 million in the budget request.

- The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which oversees everything from animal welfare and vaccinations to biotechnology regulatory programs, will get a budget of $981.1 million. That's up from $813 million requested by the president, and above the $925 million in current spending.

- The Natural Resources Conservation Service, which works directly with farmers and ranchers on soil and land conservation issues, gets $1.034 million for conservation programs, including $160 million for watershed flood and prevention operations.

- The Rural Housing Service gets $25.1 billion for single-family direct and guaranteed loans, and another $230 million for multi-family guaranteed loans - largely matching the president's request. The USDA has said that money would help "more than 164,000 families to enjoy homeownership" through the single family program, and the multi-family loans would support development of "of nearly 9,000 units for very low, low, and moderate-income rural residents." The same agency will get $1.34 billion for rural rental assistance, the same as the president's request, to help low-income families make their rental payments.

- The Rural Utilities Service, which helps low-income people pay their water, electric and internet bills, gets $560.2 million, a slight decline from the current level of $566 million, but far above the $6 million that Trump proposed.

- Child nutrition programs, a mandatory funding program that supports free and reduced-price meals to low-income school children, gets $24.25 million, matching the Trump request and about $2 million more than current levels. This helps pay for about 30.6 million school lunches and 15.7 million school breakfasts every day, according to the USDA.

- Women, Infants, and Children, a state grant program that helps fund nutritional and health care education for pregnant women and new moms, as well as children up to age 5, gets $6.175 billion in discretionary funding over two years. About $25 million of that is set aside in a rainy-day fund in case of unexpected demand. The WIC program has about 7.2 million monthly participants, per the USDA.

- Commodity assistance programs, which help fund soup kitchens, food banks, farmer's market nutrition programs and other emergency assistance programs, are slated for $322.1 million over two years. That's above the $294 million in Trump's request and current levels of $313 million.


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