Schertz and Fischer work together so closely on commodity policy for the committee that they have joked that they should have a joint e-mail account under the name “Bert.”
After they took their boss, committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., out for dinner last year in Texas, he nicknamed them “the barbecue twins.”
This close working relationship, which annoys lobbyists who disagree with them on policy, began in 2003 when Schertz was the committee’s intern coordinator and found Fischer, one of that summer’s interns, to be “bright and bold.” But in reality there was already a lot in common in their backgrounds.
Schertz, 39, a senior Republican staffer on the committee, grew up on a farm in south Texas. He went to Texas Tech in Lubbock on a livestock-judging scholarship and, taking a clue from his father, a government-relations executive for a public electric utility, interned summers for both Republican and Democratic state legislators in Austin.
Schertz started graduate school in 2002 and came to Washington for an internship with the House Agriculture Committee chairman. Except for a four-year stint in the private sector, he has stayed on the Hill.
Fischer, 33, the chief economist on the committee, grew up on a farm in southwestern Oklahoma that has been in the family for five generations. He studied agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University and stayed on for a second bachelor’s in business administration with a double major in accounting and finance.
After his internship on the committee, Fischer went to Cambridge University in England, where he got a master’s degree in land economy. Fischer notes that he spent that year studying environmental policy and trying to understand how people without an agriculture background approach policy. He also traveled the Continent, sending Schertz a series of e-mails that began, “Greetings from across the pond.”
Fischer went to Texas A&M in 2008 to get a Ph.D., and had all but finished when Lucas asked him to return to the committee in 2010 as chief economist. Fischer is on a leave of absence, but said the 1,000-page farm bill will give him plenty of material for his dissertation.
While the two work together closely, there are some differences. Schertz, who is single, has lost 35 pounds during the stress of the drawn-out farm bill, while Fischer, who has a wife and child, said he has gone in the other direction.