From the Peppermill Steakhouse in Valentine, NE:

Over the past few days I have traveled across the state of Nebraska visiting with community leaders to discuss ways to enhance our rural communities and preserve our rural way of life.

Yesterday in Ogallala I visited Lake McConaughy for a briefing on drought conditions in the area and water conservation efforts. The drought in Nebraska is in its 6th or 7th year and continues to inflict damage on our agriculture industry. A couple of years ago I named the drought "David" in order to raise awareness that it is a natural disaster, just like a hurricane. Since then Congress has fallen woefully short in addressing the economic losses of the drought. Along with many of my colleagues, I hope that the $4 billion disaster assistance package approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee will be considered and passed by the Senate.

This morning I met with hospital officials in Scottsbluff to discuss Washington's failure to understand rural health care. I have a bill that would prevent damaging new rules on rehabilitational care proposed by CMS from being implemented. If they are, many rural areas will see greatly diminished health care options or may even see their hospitals close their doors. I've often said when it comes to rural life, Washington just doesn't get it. This is a perfect example.

Earlier today I flew over the Chadron area to view the damage from recent wildfires. The U.S. Forest Service, Nebraska officials and officials from local and county organizations briefed me on the fire suppression efforts and the success of the coordination between local state and federal officials in the response to the fires.

I learned that the rural communities in the area pooled resources, chipped in, and worked together to stop these fires. As someone who grew up in a rural Nebraska community, I am proud of Chadron and the surrounding communities for how they stood together during this crisis.

Here in Valentine I'm meeting with the Niobrara River Council to discuss their efforts to increase recreational activity on the Niobrara, one of the most scenic rivers in the country.

Drought, health care, economic development and disaster recovery are issues that matter to Nebraskans. There just is no substitute for returning to Nebraska nearly every weekend and during Congressional breaks to get first hand knowledge of what's on the minds of my friends and neighbors in Nebraska.