Rep. Jeff Fortenberry said Tuesday he believes “the farm community has been very patient” as President Donald Trump attempts to reorder U.S. trade agreements.
“They know what’s g ood for America,” the Republican congressman said, “and for the most part I think they are sympathetic to what the president is trying to do.”
“The confrontation with China was absolutely necessary,” Fortenberry said during an interview in his Lincoln office. “We’ve had a bad deal for a long time.”
And, Fortenberry said, the newly negotiated U.S. trade agreement with Mexico and Canada represents “an improvement” over the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Fortenberry said he hopes Congress will ratify the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement soon “before it gets tied up in the (2020) election.”
Trump’s 2017 withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement during his initial days in office triggered alarm bells in Nebraska agriculture because of the projected loss of major new markets for farm products.
And the retaliatory blowback from the president’s subsequent imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs on U.S. trading partners resulted in a billion-dollar loss in farm income in Nebraska, according to a 2018 study by the Nebraska Farm Bureau.
Swift approval of the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement would be a welcome boost for Nebraska agriculture now, Fortenberry said.
On other matters, Fortenberry said a multi-pronged legislative package has provided swift funding to provide disaster relief and restore equipment and infrastructure at Offutt Air Force Base near Bellevue that was destroyed or damaged by the record flooding that swept across the base in March.
“One-third of the base was under water,” the congressman said. “We made the case that Offutt is essential to our national security infrastructure.”
Offutt is located in Fortenberry’s 1st Congressional District and the congressman is positioned as a member of the House Appropriations Committee to seek quick action even though he now is a member of the Republican minority.
Fortenberry credited Republican Rep. Don Bacon of Bellevue, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general and former commander at Offutt, with helping gain support for the disaster relief, military construction, equipment replacement and infrastructure repair package.
“I’m in the minority,” Fortenberry said, “but working with the majority” to assure financial relief and recovery at the air base.
On another matter, Fortenberry called for congressional approval of his Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which he has co-sponsored with Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan.
It’s a conservation proposal that would create a dedicated funding source to protect endangered species while providing hiking, biking and hunting opportunities and funding state wildlife management.
“It embraces conservation ideals while providing stewardship and sustainability,” Fortenberry said. “It’s essential and it’s long-term.
“And it could result in huge cost savings in preventing (circumstances) that would invoke the endangered species act,” he said.