Politics

In Final Spending Bill, Salty Food and Belching Cows Are Winners

A provision in the federal spending bill prohibits lowering salt limits for school lunches. (Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times/AP)
A provision in the federal spending bill prohibits lowering salt limits for school lunches. (Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times/AP)

WASHINGTON (New York Times) —  Health insurance companies preserved their tax breaks. Farmers and ranchers were spared having to report on pollution from manure. Tourist destinations like Las Vegas benefited from a travel promotion program.

Also buried in the giant spending bill that cleared the Senate on Saturday and is headed to President Obama for his signature were provisions that prohibit the federal government from requiring less salt in school lunches and allow schools to obtain exemptions from whole-grain requirements for pasta and tortillas.

The watered-down standards for school meals were a setback for the first lady, Michelle Obama, who had vowed to fight “until the bitter end” for tougher nutrition standards. But they were a victory for food companies and some local school officials, who had sought changes in regulations that are taking effect over several years.

When an omnibus spending bill pops onto the floor of the House or the Senate in the waning days of a congressional session, some lawmakers invariably express surprise and outrage at special-interest provisions stuffed into the package.

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