Farm Progress

Ag Secretary highlights positives while announcing beef grading pilot program.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

January 19, 2024

2 Min Read
Tom Vilsack speaking
Getty Images/Kevin Dietsch/Staff

On Thursday, lawmakers in the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to extend budget appropriations deadlines a third time. The Senate’s version passed 77 to 18 with will all Democrats voting in favor. The House voted 314 in favor versus 108 against. Two Democrats and 106 Republicans voted against the stop-gap budget measure.

Funding for four government agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, was set to run out at midnight on Friday. Congress now has until March 2 to fund those agencies.

The deadline for the other eight appropriations bills that would have expired on Feb. 2 was extended to March 8.

Despite Congress’ failure to pass a budget or a new farm bill, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says there’s still plenty of good things going on at the Department of Agriculture. During remarks Friday at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, he said past action like the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and the Commodity Credit Corporation created through the New Deal have given USDA resources to address a broad range of activities.

“The fiscal year started October first. It’s now January nineteenth and we don’t have a full year budget, so you might gather that, gosh, things must be pretty tough in Washington,” he said. “I’m hear today to tell you that there’s’ a tremendous amount that is going on, notwithstanding the fact that we don’t yet have a farm bill or that we don’t yet have a formal budget.”

Beef grading pilot program

The Secretary also used the occasion to announce a new pilot program for beef grading. Under the program, eligible smaller producers will be allowed to have their beef carcasses graded via photo. USDA will train those producers on how do to this properly.

According to Vilsack, the program will help many producers by eliminating the cost of going to an expensive processing facility. It will also allow them to potentially market their beef as Grade “Choice” or “Prime,” which sell for much higher levels. Vilsack adds that securing additional income and revenue streams not only benefits small and mid-sized producers, but also rural communities struggling to stay alive.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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