Sen. Deb Fischer has gained a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee as it begins to shape a new farm bill.

"Nebraska needs to be at the table," Fischer said Tuesday in announcing her appointment.

"I am really, really pleased that I am going to be joining the committee. This is great news."

Fischer will occupy the seat vacated by former Sen. Luther Strange of Alabama, who had been appointed to fill the Senate vacancy created by the resignation of Jeff Sessions when he became attorney general.  Strange has been succeeded by newly elected Sen. Doug Jones.

Nebraska has not held a seat on the Agriculture Committee since Sen. Ben Sasse left last year to join the Judiciary Committee and the Armed Services Committee.

"It's important to have a Nebraskan on that committee to be a fighter for rural America," Fischer said during a telephone interview from Washington.

"And this year is so important as the farm bill is being written."

The committee also is a good fit from a personal standpoint, she noted.

Fischer, a Sandhills rancher and former state senator with roots in Lincoln, has been "working with agriculture for about 40 years," she said, with a particular emphasis on rural economic development programs and established relationships with ag producers and organizations.

As a Republican member of the Senate, she said, she has reached out to the Trump administration on agriculture and rural issues ranging from trade to water deregulation and has focused on including rural broadband expansion as part of a developing infrastructure program.

Fischer said she was one of six senators who recently engaged with President Donald Trump in a luncheon discussion about the importance of trade and the North American Free Trade Alliance to American agriculture.

The Trump administration is in the midst of renegotiating that trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. 

"It obviously is very important for Nebraska to keep those markets open for ag producers," Fischer said. 

"We are making sure the president hears the concerns of people all across our state," she said. 

Fischer, who is seeking re-election to a second term this year, does not need to give up a committee assignment to join the Agriculture Committee. She also serves on the Armed Services Committee, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Fischer's Democratic challenger Jane Raybould has campaigned in part on her goal to seek a seat on the committee. She said the appointment shows Republican leadership is afraid the senator is vulnerable and questioned why the senator didn't previously seek a seat in her five years in the Senate.

"Nebraskans know -- our farmers and ranchers know bull when they see it and the voters will treat this as such," Raybould said in a release.

Gov. Pete Ricketts congratulated Fischer on her appointment.

“This is a critical time in agriculture as the Farm Bill debate begins. Sen. Fischer will play an important role in helping ensure the interests of Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers are heard in Washington,” he said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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