Deb Fischer joining Senate Agriculture Committee

Source: By Joe Morton, Omaha World Herald • Posted: Thursday, January 11, 2018

WASHINGTON — Nebraska has a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee once more.

Republican Sen. Deb Fischer announced Tuesday that she had joined the panel and touted her personal background in the field.

“Agriculture is the backbone of Nebraska’s economy,” Fischer said during a conference call with reporters. “And it’s a big part of my own life.”

Fischer noted the critical role the Agriculture Committee will play this year as it crafts a new farm bill. That’s the every-five-years-or-so legislation that covers crop subsidies, conservation payments and rural development programs.

This latest version comes as farm country is looking for relief from years of relatively low crop prices.

Nebraska’s junior senator, Republican Ben Sasse, previously served on the ag committee but gave it up a year ago, along with another committee, in order to join both the Judiciary Committee and the Armed Services Committee. Fischer is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee.

Sasse’s move left the ag committee without a Nebraskan for the first time in nearly half a century.

Fischer, whose family ranches near Valentine, will take the place of Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., who lost in a Republican primary last year. Fischer said she won’t have to give up any of her other committees.

Jane Raybould, the Democrat seeking to challenge Fischer in the upcoming midterm election, has campaigned in part on her intention to seek a seat on the Agriculture Committee.

Raybould issued a statement suggesting that Fischer’s landing a seat on the committee at this time represents an election year stunt. She questioned why Fischer had not sought a seat on the panel earlier in her five years in the Senate.

“The people of Nebraska are smarter than the Washington game Mitch McConnell and Deb Fischer are attempting to play,” Raybould said in a statement.

Asked for a response to Raybould’s criticism, Fischer said she has worked on farm issues for decades, including serving on then-Gov. Ben Nelson’s agriculture advisory council.

“I don’t think anyone can ever question my lifetime commitment to agriculture,” she said.

And so why not try for a seat on this very important committee earlier?

“I didn’t know there was an opening sooner,” Fischer said.

Fischer said she plans to travel the state, listening to the thoughts and concerns of agriculture producers across Nebraska.

Her priorities for the new farm bill, she said, include supporting the farm safety net, protecting crop insurance and expanding trade opportunities.

On those trade issues, she said she’s already sought to impress on the administration the importance of trade to farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and across the country.

Having a seat on the committee should make it easier to join with like-minded senators and press the pro-trade case with one voice, she said.

Fischer’s announcement was hailed by Nebraska’s Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, as well as farm groups in the state, who said Fischer would ensure that the interests of Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers are heard in Washington.

Fischer’s appointment is “tremendous news” for all farmers and ranchers, not just Nebraska’s, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said in a statement.

“As a rancher, and as an individual who has represented the interests of agriculture at all different levels of public service, we could not be more pleased to have her providing leadership and direction” on the 2018 farm bill, Nelson said.

John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, said, “Republican senators from very red states that are also big agriculture-based states are in a pivotal position to support the additional funding needed to help production agriculture through the worst financial squeeze since the economic meltdown of the 1980s.”

The ag committee chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., praised Fischer on Tuesday and said he’s happy she’s joining the panel.

“She is a producer, she and her husband, and they know firsthand what agriculture’s all about,” he said. “And it’s about time we had a Nebraskan back on the committee.”