Medicare Part D Rebates

The National  Grange has joined a large number of patient health and elderly care organizations on a letter to the U.S Congress opposing proposals to weaken programs for seniors and persons with disabilities.  One of these proposals would mandate rebates on Medicare’s Part D drug program.  But these are not rebates to patients as one might assume.  This money would be treated as a tax paid by drug manufacturers direct to the Federal Government with no resulting new drug development or lower patient prescription costs.  Click here to read Medicare Part D letter to Congress

Postal Service Cuts Causes Rural Concerns

Despite three cautionary reports by the Postal Regulatory Commission, The Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General, and an internal management report, the U.S. Postal Service has moved ahead to reduce its service standards for First-Class Mail.  These new policies will create a two-tier network with service to rural areas and small towns downgraded much more than large urban areas.  Several state and local Granges are objecting to the Postmaster General with copies to their Senators and Representatives.  Click here to read Op-Ed by Commissioner Ruth Y. Goldway

National Grange President’s February 2015 Message

In this February message, National Grange President Ed Luttrell touches on the importance of President’s Day, Grange advocacy, the 2015 Master’s Conference, and local Grange outreach.

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National Grange President’s January 2015 Message

Happy New Year from everyone at the National Grange! The new year is upon us and National Grange President Ed Luttrell hopes that you take the time to reflect on the things your Grange wants to accomplish in the coming year.

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Seasons Greetings from the National Grange

holiday_greetingAs 2014 comes to an end, we reflect on the past year and turn to those of you who have helped us accomplish various achievements.   We value your support and partnership, and we sincerely thank you.   We look forward to what lies ahead in the coming year and anticipate your continued support and dedication.

The National Grange would like to wish you a happy holiday season and a new year filled with peace and prosperity.­­­

USDA Extends Application Deadline for Dairy Margin Protection Program to Dec. 19

Dairy producers urged to act now to protect their businesses against unpredictable market swings, take advantage of increased protections offered in first year of program

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2014 – U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the application deadline for the dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) will be extended until Dec. 19, 2014.  The program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, protects participating dairy producers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below levels of protection selected by the applicant.

“The 2014 Farm Bill created these safety net programs to provide safeguards against the uncertainty of weather and markets, but this safety net is not automatic. Producers must visit their local Farm Service Agency office to enroll before December 19,” said Vilsack. “Despite the best forecasts, weather and markets can change, so a modest investment today can protect against unexpected losses tomorrow.”

“For just $100, a farmer can cover 90 percent of production at $4 margin swings, and with affordable incremental premiums, dairy farmers can cover up to $8 margin swings,” said Vilsack. “Those who apply this year will receive a slight increase in production protection that will not be available in the future. Farmers who do not sign up for the Margin Protection Program for 2015 will forfeit the 1 percent base production increase. For a 400 cow operation, this would equate to an additional 80,000 pounds of milk that are eligible for coverage. It’s a small step to take to ensure your business is covered.”

Vilsack encourages producers to use the online Web resource at www.fsa.usda.gov/mpptool to calculate the best levels of coverage for their dairy operation. They can type in specific operation data and explore price projections and market scenarios to determine what level of coverage is best for them. They can also compare the data to see how the program would have helped in previous years, such as 2008, when margins dropped from $8 to $3 in just three months. The online resource is on a secure website that can be accessed from computers, mobile phones or tablets, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Farmers also have a chance to share comments and help shape the Margin Protection Program for the future. Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the extension of the opportunity for public comments on both the Margin Protection Program and the Dairy Product Donation Program until Dec. 15, 2014. Comments can be submitted to USDA via the regulations.gov website at http://go.usa.gov/GJSA or send them by mail to: Danielle Cooke, Special Programs Manager, Price Support Division, FSA, USDA, STOP 0512, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C., 20250-0512.

Today’s announcement was made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

To learn more about the Margin Protection Program for dairy, contact your local USDA Farm Service Agency county office at offices.usda.gov or visit us on the Web at www.fsa.usda.gov.

Federal Appeals Court Scheduled to Make Important Ruling

Today is a big day in the intellectual property arena, and it’s not just scholars and technology aficionados who are taking notice. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is set to hear appeals and objections in the Apple vs. Samsung proceedings (14-1335, Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.), a critical case in the development of design patent reform. The National Grange is paying close attention to this case, being heard directly across Lafeyette Park from the National Grange Building in Washington DC, for its impact on Grange members access to advanced telecommunications technologies.

This case is not just a showdown between two corporate smartphone giants, who are primarily concerned with a jury’s award of close to $399 million dollars to Apple as damages for design patent infringement. It is of distinct interest to the National Grange and all of our members living in tribal, rural and remote communities across the country. We are deeply concerned that damages awards of this scope for this type of infringement will have ramifications far outside of the courtroom, including on rural communities that may suffer reduced internet access as a result. Smartphone technologies are essential to rural Americans in distinct ways. Wired broadband access is not as common in rural communities, and those who live in these areas frequently rely on their smartphones’ wireless capabilities (so called “mobile hotspots”) for the ability to access the internet.

Design patent damages can currently be measured based on 100 percent of the infringer’s profit. Given that a design patent is only a small piece of a larger product, this measure of potential damages is not warranted. The national Grange is pleased that our Amicus brief for the Apple v. Samsung case was referenced at the Design Law 2014 conference in November (downloadable here, slide 39). We hope the Appeals court agrees that the design patent infringement standards are unfair to tribal, rural and remote communities and need remedying.

Grange talent delights

2014_Convention_Day 6_FINALOn Friday night, more than 350 people gathered to enjoy the talent that abounds across the Grange at the Evening of Excellence.

It was a night to remember with vocal acts, variety acts, and Sign-S-Song performances as well as the announcements of new Junior and Youth Ambassadors.

National Grange Lecturer Jim Tetreault co-hosted the event with Illinois State Grange Lecturer Trisha Renken and Michigan State Grange Lecturer Sharon Poplar.

He said the Evening of Excellence was “a spectacular showcase of talent and passion in the Grange.”

2014_Convention_Day 6_FINAL“Every year this is a highlight of convention.  After all the stress from the week, we can sit together and enjoy entertainment
by young and old members who shine on stage,” Tetreault said.

National Grange Youth Development Director Charlene Espenshade led a portion of the program in which she introduced 11 youth ambassadors from seven different states.

“These young people are an incredible asset to their communities and our organizations,” Espenshade said. “I was impressed and amazed at some of the projects they have been part of or spearheaded…”

Highlights of the Event included musical acts, skits, Sign-A-Songs and speeches.

National Grange Junior Development Director Lillian Booth announced Morgan Browning of Washington as the 2014-15 Junior Ambassador.

Two elected to National Grange Executive Committee

excomarticleTwo Wisconsin Grangers will hold seats on the National Grange Executive Committee simultaneously after several rounds of balloting by delegates to the 148th Session Thursday for the two open positions.

Leroy Watson, a 42-year Grange member, who serves as Treasurer of Fox Valley Good Earth Grange #776 in Neenah, Wisc., and Overseer of Potomac Grange #1, D.C., picked up his first seat as an officer of the National Grange with Thursday’s vote.

“I’m deeply honored to receive the confidence of a majority of the delegates of the National Grange to serve them on their Executive Committee. I am looking forward to working with the fellow members of the executive committee, our state masters and Grange members across the nation to advance the interests, elevate the character and increase the influence of all Patrons of Husbandry.”

Watson replaces Betsy E. Huber, of Pennsylvania, who served on the board since 2006 and has been board chair since 2007.
Watson, a native of Vermont where he still owns and operates his family farm, has served as the Special Director for Trademark Protection and Brand Management since August 2007. He was also the Legislative Director from 1999 until 2010 and Legislative Assistant from 1985-95.

He also served as Legislative Director of the Vermont State Grange, and as legislative assistant for both the Vermont Farm Bureau and Vermont State Employees Association.

He has a degree in political science from the University of Vermont, and a law degree from George Mason University in Arlington, VA. He also studied administrative law at the University of Exeter in Exeter, England, and is admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Watson and his wife, Cheri, and daughter, Rachel, 12, reside in Appleton, Wisc., but will soon relocate to Walpool, N.H.

He is Overseer for Potomac Grange #1 and serves on the National Grange Historical Committee.

Duane Scott, Master of the Wisconsin State Grange, returns to the Executive Committee for his third term.

Scott was National Grange Steward from 2001-07. He has served twice as Wisconsin State Master from 1997-2003 and reelected in 2009, serving through today.

Since he was 5, Scott has been affiliated with the same Grange, first as a Junior Granger with La Prairie Junior Grange #19, then as a subordinate member of La Prairie Grange #79. He has held nearly every office open to a man in the Grange.

Scott, of Fort Atkinson, Wisc., said upon re-election he plans to “continue working to build membership and encourage our members to gear up for the 150th Anniversary” as well as “re-forge our fraternal bonds and grow our family organization.”

He has been employed at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office since 1986 and currently holds the rank of Captain.

He and his wife, Kymm, have been married for 29 years and were members of the 1996 National Grange Youth Team.

They have a daughter, Amber, 23.

The executive committee members will meet after installation on Friday to vote for a new chairman.

Reception Honors Distinguished Granges

IMG_20141112_174155014_HDRWednesday night, more than 100 people gathered to celebrate with winners of the Distinguished Grange Award during its fifth year of the program.

The program honors Subordinate and State Granges that fulfill responsibilities while excelling in the areas of membership, fundraising and community service in their communities.

Two State Granges, Maryland and New York, and seven Subordinate Granges received plaques for their five continous years of being a Distinguished Grange.

“When the previous National Communications Director, Jen and I, along with the previous National Membership Director Rusty Hunt formulated this program six years ago, we didn’t know how popular it would become,” said National Grange Sales, Benefits, Programs and Membership Recognition Director Samantha Johnson. “Our Granges are proud to be honored for their commitment to their communities and our organization.”

In total, 11 State Granges and 51 Subordinate Granges received the honor this year. Johnson said this was the highest number of winners of any year.

The five year plaques were donated by former National Youth Director Wib Justi’s family, and his wife June and daughter Mary Justi Sheppard were in the audience.

“Wib was a fantastic supporter of the Grange, and he would be proud that these active Granges were recognized for their work,” National Master Ed Lutrell said.