USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new grants and loans to boost local and regional meat processing capacity, but also took questions on Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow’s retirement plans and the Speakership chaos in the House.
From Illinois and Iowa to New York, Texas, and California, Vilsack announced more than $9.5 million in new grants for 25 projects to boost the nation’s meat supply.
“The point of this is we’re looking at a creative, comprehensive set of opportunities to expand more, new, and better market opportunities for meat and poultry. We’re going to continue to do this over the course of the next several months, as we utilize American Rescue Plan resources.”
More than $223 million was announced in November, alone, plus some $80 million in inspection readiness grants and technical help.
Vilsack also reflected on Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow’s plans to retire at the end of her fourth term.
“I don’t know of another member of the Senate that has been any more successful in getting complicated, complex legislation through that process than Senator Stabenow. She’s done an extraordinary job for farmers, ranchers, producers, and rural Americans, and for rural places—the work that she’s done on the farm bills.”
A track record Vilsack expects will continue, despite the Speakership turmoil in the House GOP conference.
“I have great confidence that Chairwoman Stabenow will figure out a way to get to ‘yes,’ notwithstanding whatever challenges there may be, whether it’s the circumstance in the House or whether it’s disputes between commodities that often occur, or between regions of the country, or some of the budget challenges that may be faced or demands of taking money from this pot or that pot, which folks have concerns about. It’s always very difficult, and that’s why she’s so good.”
Stabenow’s term is up in two years, during which she says she’ll focus on securing the next farm bill.