Rep. Michelle Fischbach is still a freshman in Congress, but she has already proven her willingness to reach out to the electric cooperatives in her rural Minnesota district, statewide co-op leaders say.
“Representative Fischbach and her team have been eager to spend time with cooperatives,” says Darrick Moe, president and CEO of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association. “Even before she started her term, she traveled to Lake Region Electric Cooperative for an event LREC and MREA hosted. She heard about the cooperatives in her district, our motivation to serve our communities and our current policy priorities.”
Moe says the congresswoman and native Minnesotan “consistently supports policies that ensure a reliable blend of generation resources are available.”
Fischbach, a Republican, is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan Flexible Financing for Rural America Act, which is one of NRECA’s top legislative priorities. The bill would allow co-ops to refinance their debt from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service loans at lower interest rates without being hit with prepayment penalties. Co-ops say the money they would save on interest could help them upgrade their infrastructure and keep rates affordable for consumer-members.
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Fischbach’s support for co-ops began before her 2020 election to Congress, when she served in the Minnesota Senate for more than 20 years, Moe says. She was the first woman to serve as president of the state Senate, holding that position for four years.
“Rep. Fischbach worked with us effectively during her time in the state Senate,” Moe says. “She has assisted cooperatives with numerous policy priorities.”
Fischbach says she sees electric co-ops as essential to the rural communities she serves.
“More than half of the state’s electric cooperatives call Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District home,” she says. “They are the bedrock of our communities, providing electricity, broadband and other services to western Minnesota’s families, businesses and communities.”
The congresswoman says that as ranking member of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit, she will “advocate for policies that allow electric cooperatives to continue their important work ensuring our communities grow and thrive.”
Fischbach also served about a year as lieutenant governor. She assumed that post in 2018 after her predecessor, Tina Smith, was appointed by the governor to the U.S. Senate following the resignation of former Sen. Al Franken. Under the Minnesota constitution, the Senate president becomes lieutenant governor in the event of a resignation.
The congresswoman’s district encompasses the western part of the state from the Canadian border almost to the Iowa border. It’s the largest congressional district by land mass in Minnesota and includes more than 30,000 farms and about 15 million acres of farmland that produce nearly half of the state’s agricultural sales, according to the USDA and the U.S. Census Bureau.