New Award Recognizes Political Courage in Fighting for Rural Values and Rural People

Last month the Center presented our first ever policymaker award to Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).

Our new George Norris Policymaker Award takes its name from the populist Nebraska politician. Norris was an instrumental figure in Nebraska politics. He played a major role in forming two institutions that set Nebraska apart from other states — our unicameral body of state government and our entirely public power system of electric utilities.

And like the Center today, his accomplishments reached beyond Nebraska. Norris served in the US House and the US Senate. He supported the direct election of US senators. He was also a champion for the Rural Electrification Act, which brought the promise of electricity to underserved rural areas across the nation.

George Norris fought for common people. His public career was made fighting corporate power and standing up for small town America. He believed in an active role for government, but a role designed to give everyday people the ability to shape their own destiny.

We gave our inaugural George Norris Policymaker Award to Representative Fortenberry for his tireless work to champion policies that echo the values of George Norris. These are the values of the Center for Rural Affairs and the values of rural people across the nation.

Representative Fortenberry’s commitment to these values stands out most clearly in the recent farm bill debate. Over the course of the debate, Representative Fortenberry championed provisions to close the egregious loopholes that allow the largest farmers in this country to run away with unlimited farm subsidies. When a provision he fought for was stripped in conference committee, Fortenberry criticized the undemocratic move behind closed doors before casting a vote against the final bill.

Fortenberry also backed new and innovative programs to help beginning farmers and small businesses get started. And he helped to win a critical conservation provision that protects our most vulnerable agricultural landscapes. You can read more about the provisions he helped to win here

Representative Fortenberry stood out ahead of his colleagues in Washington on these issues. On some, he bucked the conventional stand of those in his own party. That takes courage. And it is just such political courage the George Norris Policymaker award was created to recognize. Throughout the farm bill debate Representative Fortenberry was a champion for you - for small town business owners, family farmers, and community leaders.

I encourage you to get in touch with Representative Fortenberry. No matter where you live – call or write and tell him you stand with the Center for Rural Affairs in thanking him for his principled stand in the recent farm bill debate.

One final note. This new award will not be given every year. We want to ensure it is reserved for policymakers who truly rise above our expectation to fight for issues that matter to you.