Nebraska Congressman Fortenberry looks at key issues facing agriculture

Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry says work needs to be done in several areas of agriculture that present issues for America’s farm and ranch families beginning with rural broadband.

He says supports investing in rural broadband but wants answers from the USDA on its progress. “I asked the Inspector General of the USDA the other day what are the metrics we are using to measure outcomes and she said, ‘I don’t know,'” he said. “This is a problem because more money and more wires laid don’t necessarily solve the problem of enhanced access and affordability.”

Fortenberry tells Brownfield he wants to know how it’s bettering rural communities. “Are we advancing telehealth, telework, distance learning, precision agricultural and ecommerce?”

Fortenberry is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies.

In a wide-ranging interview with Brownfield, Fortenberry says he’s also working with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on his ‘Farm of the Future’ initiative and conservation.

He says his ‘Farm of the Future’ initiative creates new opportunities. “It’s a broad umbrella phrase that captures the reality of how do we advance the basic proposition of sustainability, enhance revenue to the farmer, regenerative capacity of the land so that rural communities are better off,” he says.

Fortenberry says his idea recreates food culture and the use of technology to advance precision agriculture to increase yields. “The farmer to the family, the urban to the rural with a built-in burgeoning science of the traditional ag sciences of animal husbandry and agronomy and plant science with environmental science, international development, and again other emerging trends in agriculture,” he said.

Fortenberry also says he’s continuing to study how agriculture universities are re-envisioning their role in the industry to better advance technology for farmers and ranchers.

He says the USDA Blue Ribbon Panel evaluates three areas to help bridge the gap between education, profitability and sustainability for all producers. “How their research can be better coordinated for the proper end for big ideas like the Farm of the Future but also a real need we have to build consortium cooperative initiatives with historic black colleges and finally the values proposition for the student,” he says.

Fortenberry says his goal is to bring several stakeholders to the table. “I hope to have a number of president of universities and private sector leaders to actually take a long-hard look at again – an extraordinary entity, which we take for granted – the land-grant institution, but how do we update, modernize, make it relevant, and make it successful for the 21st century,” he said.

Fortenberry’s full interview:

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