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Fortenberry: Pass farm bill this year with beginning, local farmer provisions

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry
OMAHA — Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., said Monday that Congress should pass a farm bill this year and include assistance for both beginning and local producers.

After a speech to the National Farmers Union convention here, Fortenberry, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, told The Hagstrom Report that Congress should proceed “in an orderly business process.”

Not passing key bills like the farm bill creates “deep cynicism in the institution” among voters, he said, adding that too often, legislation ends up being passed “at the 11th hour when an emergency dictates necessity.”

But Fortenberry said he believes the farm bill is “more likely to be delayed than not.” Action in the Senate could “compel” the House to act, he said, adding that the prospects for passage will be clearer later this spring.

In his speech, Fortenberry noted he has introduced a bill to help beginning farmers and that he wants help for local and organic producers because he wants to help “entrepreneurial producers meet new market demands.”

Noting that his district director raises Piedmontese beef, Fortenberry said, “Many people want to know where their food comes from. We need to pay attention to these trends.”

Fortenberry’s enthusiasm for organic and local production is rare for a House member who comes from a state known for large-scale commodity production. In the interview, he said that while Nebraska’s “strength is mass production,” he is always looking for ways to augment that.

Organic and local production, he said, “is a form of economic re-development [that leads to] job creation and healthy food outcomes.”

“It is a winner for agriculture consistent with time honored production,” Fortenberry said. “I see no inherent tension there.”