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Sen. Fischer says new Farm Bill will aid rural Nebraska

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HARTINGTON — Neb. Sen. Deb Fischer told a group of supporters here Saturday she expects to see a new Farm Bill in place in the next few weeks.

Both the House and Senate passed their own versions of the bill this summer. 

A conference committee of Senators and House members is currently meeting to iron out differences between the two bills, she said. Once that work is done, the bill will go to the President’s desk to be signed.

Fischer gave the update while meeting with about a dozen supporters Saturday at Hartington’s Cobblestone Inn. Her day also included campaign stops in Pierce, Creighton, and Neligh.

She told local residents the Senate version of the Farm Bill does many things to help rural Nebraska.

“The First priority is crop insurance we need to make sure we maintain that safety net of crop insurance and this bill does that,” she said.

The Farm Bill is much more than just guidance on agricultural policy. It affects almost every walk of life.

Another aspect of the bill helps to improve the infrastructure in rural Nebraska so broadband is easily accessible, Sen. Fischer said.

“If we don’t have infrastructure, if we don’t have broadband in rural Nebraska, our communities are going to continue to suffer,” she said.

The internet is providing many opportunities to rural America, she said.

“It’s made Distance learning a reality. It is allowing for telehealth so people can get the medical expertise they need, no matter where they live.”

Fischer also noted the third biggest user of the “Internet of Things,” is the agricultural industry.

She said new precision agriculture techniques are a great example of why improved broadband is needed in rural America.

Precision agriculture uses technology to measure how much moisture is in the soil and how much fertilizer would need to be put on that soil.

“I’m very excited I was able to get that rural broadband in the Farm Bill,” she said. “It’s just amazing what is available now to farmers and ranchers, and what is available for the next generation.”

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Fischer, who owns a ranch in Cherry County with her husband, Bruce, said she hopes the Farm Bill will be approved very soon.

Despite gridlock over many of the major issues of the day, the Senate is quietly working on several bills that are good news for Nebraskans, Fischer said.

“We are taking up spending bills and appropriations bills,” she said, noting that nine of these bills have been passed in the U.S. Senate to date.

“This is Democrats and Republicans working together. My understanding is that hasn’t happened (on spending and appropriations bills) in decades. We are pretty polarized as a country, but I think it’s important that we try to work together more,” she said.

Fischer said she is also working to improve health care for rural Americans — even if it’s just one small step at a time.

“A Group of us are trying to pass smaller (healthcare) bills that will help people,” she said.

Current law restricts a pharmacist from telling a customer if a certain drug could be purchased more cheaply out-of-pocket rather than with insurance.

A bill Sen. Fischer co-sponsored removes that gag order on pharmacists and allows them the ability to better serve their customers, she said.

Another bill she co-sponsored gives consumers access to the cost of their medical treatment, so they can shop around for the best deal to help keep health care costs down.

“We price cars, we should have the opportunity to price healthcare,” she said.

Fischer is being challenged in the Nov. 6 election by Democrat Jane Reybold, who currently serves on the Lincoln City Council.