Meet Betsy Huber – Our New National Grange President!

Meet our new National President, Betsy Huber! In this message, Mrs. Huber discusses her background with the Grange, the 149th National Grange Convention that took place in November in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the importance of communication in the future of the Grange and it’s membership growth.

As always, we hope you like and subscribe to these videos. It’s our way of sharing important information with each and all of you.

 

 

Close caption for this and other videos can be displayed by clicking on the closed caption icon in the bottom of the video window. (see below)

close caption

National Grange Quilt Contest Winners

2015quiltwinners

The National Grange Quilt Block Contest is a program promoted by the National Grange Lecturer.  Many beautiful entries were submitted by Grange members all over the country.  The decision was not easy but final decisions were made and the WINNERS ARE………..

 

Quilt Blocks:
1st Place: Sharon Barthmaier Skyline Grange #894 OR
2nd Place: Cindy Harvey, Rockingham Grange #188 NH
3rd Place: Jackie Payne, Volunteer Grange #1250 TN

Honorable Mention: Sandra L. Dunkel – Weissert Grange #419 NE
Honorable Mention:Nancy Blackmer North Orange #86 MA
Honorable Mention: Alice Hartman< Kimberton Grange #1304 PA

Pillows:
1st: Donna Champion Sunbeam#2 MN
2nd: Tracy Waters, Skyline Grange #894 OR
3rd: Nancy Blackmer North Orange MA

Honorable Mention: Irene Lee, Blanchard #449 ID
Honorable Mention: Lois Evankow, Lyme Grange #147 CT

Table Runner:
1st: Alma Graham, Echo Grange #180 CT
2nd: Lois Evankow, Lyme Grange #147 CT
3rd: Nancy Blackmer, North Orange Grange #86 MA

Honorable Mention: Eileen Javaux Pleasant Ridge Grange ID

See What’s Happening for the 150th Annual Convention

Policy Updates and News December 2015 Part II

Congress Plays Santa Then Leaves Town

The first session of the 114th Congress has adjourned. During a final week filled with long hours of debate and dozens of votes, Congress passed two massive end-of-year measures. Amid threats of a political stalemate over funding for FY’16 that could force a federal government shutdown, Washington was able to cross party lines and divisions within the Senate and House to pass another omnibus funding package. The package is known as an omnibus because it combines 12 appropriations bills. Bipartisan votes of 65-33 in the Senate and 316-113 in the House sent the omnibus to the President who signed it a few hours later. This legislation funds the agencies of the federal government through September 30, 2016. In addition to funding the government, the omnibus resembles an extraneous Christmas tree with assorted goodies and presents unrelated to appropriations. Earlier last week, Congress also passed, and the President signed, a sweeping tax extenders bill. This legislation also had bipartisan support. Here are some items of interest to Grangers in both packages.

The Omnibus Package

The “Cadillac” Tax and More

The so-called Obama Care “Cadillac Tax” is suspended for five years. This is a 40% excise tax on high end employer sponsored health insurance plan premiums.  The medical device tax and the health insurer tax have also been delayed.  These taxes were intended to help pay for the law which may not bode well for the Affordable Care Act’s long term sustainability.

Crude Oil Exports

The spending bill lifts a decades-old ban on crude oil exports.

Visa Waiver Program

Foreigners from certain allied countries have traditionally been allowed to travel to America without a visa. Language in the omnibus prevents individuals from visiting the U.S. without a visa if they’ve previously traveled to countries where Islamic State terrorist groups are most active.

Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL)
The COOL law which required meat to be labeled with its country of origin was repealed. This action prevents Canada and Mexico from imposing $1.1 billion in retaliatory tariffs against U.S. goods and services authorized by the World Trade Organization December 7, 2015.
Dietary Guidelines

A provision says the guidelines must be “based on scientific agreement ” and “limited in scope to nutritional and dietary” to ensure extraneous environmental factors are not used in writing new dietary guidelines.

EPA Overreach

There will be no new funding for new or expanded EPA regulatory programs.  EPA is also prohibited from applying greenhouse gas emissions regulations to livestock producers.

Prescription Drugs

The Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit a report to Congress concerning price changes of prescription drugs, access to prescription drugs by patients, patient satisfaction with care and an analysis of the current cost and length of time necessary to bring new drugs to the market.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

The fund, which was in danger of losing its funding, has been revived and  renewed for three years.

Measures that Failed to Make the Omnibus Package
Ending President Obama’s executive actions on immigration
Restricting the Syrian and Iraqi refugee program
GMO ingredient food labeling
Defunding Planned Parenthood

Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act

Agriculture Research
A new class of public charities called “agricultural research organizations” has been created. This new legislation will allow individual donations to qualifying entities to receive the same tax deduction treatment as contributions to educational organizations or churches. Only entities “directly engaged in the continuous active conduct of agricultural research” with land grant universities and agricultural colleges would be eligible for the new tax consideration.
Renewable Energy
The production tax credit for wind energy has been extended for five years.

The investment tax credit for solar energy has been extended for five years.

Earned Income Tax Credit
This provision will become permanent law.
Child Tax Credit
This provision will become permanent law.
Research and Development Tax Credit

This provision will become permanent law.

Investment Tax Credit

This tax break for investments in new equipment and software upgrades will become permanent.

Bonus Depreciation Allowance

This allowance has been extended for five years (50% for 2015-2017, 40% for 2018, 30% for 2019)

Section 179 Expensing
This section of the tax code allows farms and businesses to write off expenses up to $500,000 and has now been made permanent and indexed to inflation
Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Incentives

This $1.00/gallon tax credit provision has been extended two years

Alternative Fuels
The 50 cents/gallon tax credit for alternative fuels and alternative fuel mixtures is extended two years
Congressional Agenda for the 2016 Second Session

GMO Labeling Laws and Disclosure Standards
The clock is ticking for Congress to act. A Vermont labeling law is set to take effect in July, 2016. Failure to enact federal preemption measures could open the door to multiple different state labeling requirements beginning in New York, Connecticut, Oregon and others.

School Nutrition Program
Legislation to reauthorize school nutrition standards is high on the priority list. A major issue will be how much flexibility local school districts will have to determine foods and menus for their students.
What’s Possible

Many more important issues are sitting and waiting. But the real question is what is doable in 2016? Presidential primaries, congressional races and the general election will dominate the politics of Washington. Rhetoric will be loud; congressional activities will be many; legislative accomplishments will be few.

Samsung Files Petition for Supreme Court Review

Samsung officially filed a request with the Supreme Court to examine the decision in its long running litigation with Apple. At the crux of the petition is design patents and their legal interpretation in infringement lawsuits, and the damages awarded from alleged infringement.

This is not the first time the National Grange has weighed in on the patent litigation between these two household names. Current legal interpretations elevate design patents and ornamental features of a product over utility patents and a product’s functionality. Additionally, the damages from infringement could result in total profits – an incentive for troll-like litigation over design patents.

If these legal interpretations are left to stand, rural and agriculture industries, businesses, and consumers will lose. The National Grange continues to support Samsung’s appeal to the Supreme Court, and we encourage the high court to accept this case for its docket. Design patent law current interpretations are more harmful than helpful.

The Grange’s Eastern Region

The “Force” that will bring you the 150th
Annual National Grange Convention

 Picture1
force

L to R: (back row) Burton, Eller, Michael Lynch, Pete Pompper, Jimmy Gentry (second row) Maurice Wiles, James Foster Barbara Borderieux (third row) Beth Downey, Judy Sherrod (front row) Stephanie Tiller, Joan Smith.

 

“Check back each month for more information about “The Force” and some information about each state in the Eastern Region.”

Policy Updates and News – December 2015

Congress Launches End-Of-Year Dash

The more gridlocked Congress becomes, the more predictable lawmakers are. Major issues languish in committee or in the House or Senate for months and months. The federal government spending for FY ‘16 began October 1 with temporary extensions of existing FY’15 authorities. There has been no budget authority or spending allocation for FY m’16 in place. Agreement between the House and Senate or between Democrats and Republicans proved elusive all summer and fall. Then time runs out. The nation edges close to crisis mode. Short term extensions of authorization and funding are passed, then extended and extended again. All of a sudden it’s Thanksgiving and short term extenders of all kinds start expiring. A full year’s workload has piled up for December. If Congress doesn’t get a move on, there’ll be no Santa Clause for constituents back home.   Reconciling the federal budget authorizations between the Senate and House is a priority. There’s no time now to pass all twelve appropriations bills (that dole out the federal funds) so a omnibus spending package becomes both a vehicle for must-pass legislation and a “Christmas tree” on which to hang various legislation that’s been bottled up somewhere.  If Congress fails to pass an omnibus bill or if the President vetoes it, the federal government faces a shutdown again.

Several politically hot policy issues could be folded into an omnibus package as the December debate on Capitol Hill draws to a close. Among these are Syrian refugee resettlement, federal funding for Planned Parenthood, tax extenders, GMO labeling, child nutrition programs, Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) reauthorization, riders blocking funding for the Waters of the United States (WOTUS ) rule, revising the current Visa Waiver Program, revising or repealing ObamaCare and more. To prevent a government shutdown sparked by a presidential veto of the omnibus with controversial “Christmas tree” provisions attached, Congress could pass a series of controversial stand-alone bills to send individually to the White House. As an example, the Senate and House are currently working on major revisions to ObamaCare and a plan to end taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood that can go forward individually or be folded into the omnibus package.

Status of Specific Omnibus-Targeted Policy Issues

Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS)

The WOTUS rider, which enjoys significant bipartisan support, would block implementation of the rule even if the court stays were lifted. Once enacted, the WOTUS provision could be extended beyond fiscal 2016. Inclusion of this rider seems a sure bet, but President Obama is pushing back hard to save WOTUS in omnibus negotiations.

GMO Labeling

A proposal to create a voluntary, USDA verified, GMO-Free labeling program has passed the House but is still pending in the Senate. Senator Stabenow of Michigan, the Senate Agriculture Committee’s top Democrat, has been working on a compromise plan that would preempt state GMO labeling laws while requiring electronic disclosure of GMO ingredients. During this process, the food industry launched a smartphone –based SmartLabel system to allow consumers to find GMO information on the web through phone-based QR code on package labels. Legislation under development would require USDA to decide what biotech breeding methods would make a product genetically engineered. However, negotiations appear to have broken down in the Senate and several senators now say GMO labeling legislation is dead for the year.

On related topics, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave approval for domestic production of bioengineered salmon that grow twice as fast as salmon in the wild. Also, UDSA’s Biotechnology Regulatory Services is planning an overhaul to the way it regulates biotechnology. A proposed rule is slated to be available to the public by August.

Country of Origin Labeling

The U.S. is nervously awaiting the World Trade Organization (WTO) announcement by December 7 regarding the amount of retaliatory tariffs Mexico and Canada can impose on U.S. goods in the country-of-origin trade dispute. Actual tariffs could be in place by December 18. The U.S. has floated a voluntary born and raised in the USA label which Canada and Mexico have rejected. If the WTO-announced tariffs are high ($3 billion), Congress could, 1) create a compromise label acceptable to Canada and Mexico, or 2) repeal COOL in the omnibus package. If the announced tariffs are low ($500 million), or if Congress doesn’t act, tariffs could become an eminent reality.

Tax Extenders

End- of-the-year, last-minute renewal of expired tax breaks has become the norm for Congress. The list includes expanded Section 179 business expensing allowance, the 50-percent bonus depreciation provision, tax subsidies on biodiesel and wind power, Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers, Child Tax Credit, repeal or revision of the so-called “Cadillac Tax” on high-value employer-sponsored healthcare plans and the medical device tax. Extenders are considered must-pass priorities to be included in the omnibus.

 

Actions on Additional Policy Issues

Highway Bill

Solid bipartisan support for longer-term highway and infrastructure funding has resulted in a bill’s passage through both the House and Senate and a Senate-House conference committee agreement. The five-year $305 billion bill breezed through final House and Senate passage and is on its way to the President’s desk where he is expected to sign it into law. The legislation includes a so-called “bulk milk provision” that allows states to issue bulk haulers permits that classify milk a “non-divisible load” between farms and processing plants thereby exempting milk haulers from the requirement to offload a portion of their load to comply with state truck weight limits. The bill will be financed by a combination of import taxes, selling oil from the strategic petroleum reserve and withdrawals from the general fund.    In an interesting twist, Congress used the highway bill to reverse a $3 billion cut to crop insurance enacted earlier in a budget agreement. The $3 billion will be offset through a Federal Reserve dividend cut to big banks.

Renewable Fuel Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally announced its renewal fuel volume obligations for 2016. The target is 18.11 billion gallons, with the potential for approximately 14.5 gallons coming from corn ethanol and the remaining 3.61 billion gallons from advanced biofuels.  These targets are significantly above the 17.4 billion gallons initially proposed earlier this year but far below the 22.3 billion gallons set by Congress in 2007 legislation.   Mixed reactions have come from the renewable fuel industry, corn farmers and the oil industry.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Task Force Proposes Drone Registration

Recommendations from a FAA task force would require drones weighing more than a half pound to contain an identifying number that can be traced back to an owner. The proliferation of drones has become a safety concern for pilots who share air space with novice drone operators.

Stay Tuned

Congress hopes to adjourn the first session of the 114th Congress on December 18. That’s just two weeks from now with a year’s worth of work to do. Watch for long nights and weekend work on Capitol Hill that could close in on Christmas.

Questions and comments regarding the National Grange Policy Updates and News can be directed to Burton Eller, Legislative Director at beller@national grange.org   (202) 628-3507 extension 114.

What’s Next: Apple-Samsung Lawsuit Continues

The National Grange has monitored the Apple-Samsung patent litigation for well over a year, and as the battle between these two super companies continues, the National Grange will continue to update its members and fight for their best interests. For background, in August we wrote about a disappointing decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and what the implications of that ruling could mean for industries and consumers; and this summer, National Grange filed an Amicus brief with the Court, expressing our concerns on the impacts of this landmark case.

Samsung – the defendant against alleged patent infringement claims – has announced its intentions to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. Its petition is due December 14, and the National Grange encourages the Supreme Court to review this case for several key reasons:

  1. The current ruling elevates designs of objects over their functionality – essentially putting design patents on a pedestal over utility patents. Unlike utility patents, where an infringement results in reasonable royalty damages based on the role of the patent in question in the sale of a product, design patent infringement can result in disgorgement of total profits. That means an alleged infringer – say, for example, of a design patent for a part of a tractor – could be forced to pay full profits of the entire tractor, regardless of the role the design patent played in the tractor’s sales. While this seems absurd, that is exactly what happened when the jury awarded total profits from devices that included an infringing icon display.
  1. If the lower court’s ruling is allowed to stand, we risk asking juries to make legal interpretations of scope of patents and to filter out the functional aspects. This is a really challenging endeavor that juries are not equipped to do and in other areas of the law, such as trade dress infringement, the courts do this. We are concerned that if juries are tasked with this, the risk of runaway verdicts with no further guidance on how to avoid future infringement is created, thus creating a chilling effect on manufacturers and technology development.
  1. Awarding total profits from the end product that includes an infringing design, regardless of whether the patent is for the entire product at issue or simply some aspect incorporated into a larger product, will be seized as opportunity by litigious entities, creating a new type of “troll” focused on design patents. Weak patents may be granted (it is estimated 90% of all design patent applications are granted) and manufacturers and the retailers will be at great risk.

The impact of the Apple-Samsung patent dispute stretches well beyond these two companies. The legal standard that is set based on this lawsuit will impact industries across America and have significant impacts on innovation, R&D, manufacturing, and ultimately, the consumer. The National Grange membership is particularly concerned because in the rural parts of the country, we have many small businesses and farmers that cannot absorb loss of total profits resulting from infringing a design patent, which may not have played a role in generating those profits, nor the litigation costs of lengthy design patent lawsuits that are inevitable if the legal interpretation stands as is.

We support Samsung’s appeal to the Supreme Court, and encourage the Court to review this lawsuit and keep in mind the impacts on industry and rural communities. We will continue to update our membership on this critical case.

National Grange Legislative Fly-In 2016

MARK YOUR CALENDAR
MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS
Come Join Us and the Presidential Primary Candidates
NATIONAL GRANGE LEGISLATIVE FLY-IN
February 4 – 7, 2016
Concord, New Hampshire

Come to New Hampshire and participate in a presidential candidate’s campaign the weekend prior to the big New Hampshire primary vote the following Tuesday. Meet Grangers from other states, discuss National Grange legislative and regulatory issues, learn the history behind presidential primaries, tour the New Hampshire Statehouse and visit with the press corps covering the candidates. Then spend a day working on the campaign for the candidate of your choice!

flyin2016Schedule

Thursday, February 4 (Transportation provided from airport)
  • Flights – Arrive at Manchester Airport
  • Hotel – Comfort Inn, Concord
  • Evening – Welcome, itinerary, discussions, fellowship at hotel
Friday, February 5 (Transportation provided)
  • New Hampshire State Capitol, Concord
  • Morning meeting at the Statehouse with NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who will brief us on the First in the Nation Presidential Primary, and the history of presidential primaries in New Hampshire
  • Afternoon tour of the New Hampshire Statehouse that has been continuously occupied by the legislature longer than any other statehouse in the country
  • Evening – Dinner together and youth outing
Saturday, February 6 (Transportation provided)
  • Breakfast – New Hampshire State Grange Building with guest James Pindell, Political Reporter for the Boston Globe
  • Meeting with the on-site press corps to discuss the media’s role in presidential campaigns (Radisson Hotel, Manchester)
  • Grangers go to Manchester campaign headquarters of Presidential candidates of their choice, meet with representatives of the Democratic and Republican Parties to talk about their roles in the process, participate in a campaign event of their choice (i.e. stuffing mailers, phone banks, visibility, canvassing, etc.)
Sunday, February 7 (Transportation provided to airport)
  • Return home
Travel and Registration
 

All travel and hotel costs will be a personal expense for Fly-In attendees. Please make your own travel arrangements and book your hotel stay directly. If you plan to attend the Fly-In, please contact Stephanie Tiller by phone at (202) 628-3507 ext. 113 or via email to [email protected]register

Be sure to tell us:
  • Whether you will be flying or driving
  • When you anticipate arriving in Manchester (flying) or Concord (driving)
  • Your preference of presidential campaigns for work on Saturday (prioritize 1-2-3)
  • Any special accommodations or dietary needs you request
  • Your cell phone number and email

Housing

Our hotel is the Comfort Inn, 71 Hall Street, Concord, NH. 03301, phone (603) 226-4100.  Group rate is $199 plus 9% sales tax per night. The cut-off date to make a reservation is January 8, 2016.   Availability is limited so reserve your room now.

Recommended Dress

Casual, warm and neat. It is cold in New Hampshire in February. Layered clothing is good. Be prepared for snow.

Ground Transportation

The National and New Hampshire Granges will provide ground transportation between the airport in Manchester and our hotel in Concord as well as to our events on Friday and Saturday. We must have your cell phone and email in advance for the drivers.
We hope to see you all there!

Federal Communication Commission Should Encourage Innovation and Private Investment in Rural America

Last week, Congress held a hearing to evaluate proposals and recent actions of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and determine how the agency can better serve the public. Both Republican and Democratic members asked all five FCC commissioners questions regarding their work over the past year on a range of issues that impact consumers, from spectrum to broadband deployment. One particular issue that surfaced repeatedly during the hearing was how the FCC can improve its efforts to expand these essential services and resources to rural areas.

Millions of Americans living in rural areas and communities still lack high-speed broadband. Access to higher quality, faster Internet enhances people’s lives by providing more opportunities in education, healthcare, and professional development. It brings communities together and levels the playing field between rural areas, smaller towns and larger urban centers. But more must be done, and the National Grange is a strong advocate for Federal policies that help deliver the online opportunities that those rural areas deserve.

The FCC should learn from successful actions of the past and exercise regulatory caution moving forward. Over twenty years ago, the government embraced a light-touch regulatory approach that enabled the Internet to flourish into the essential modern technology and engine of economic growth and opportunity that it continues to be today. Now the FCC wants to impose outdated regulations onto broadband networks. This approach will inhibit the capital investment necessary for deploying broadband to underserved areas and rural communities that need access to broadband the most.

Consumers in rural America are better served by policies that encourage innovation and private investment so that the marketplace and competitors can provide a variety of choices and innovate, build, and expand to meet consumer demand. It is the sustained investment in expanding broadband networks that enables companies to deliver economic opportunities to rural communities and ensure no one is left behind.

The Grange wants to work cooperatively with government and other stakeholders to ensure regulations have purpose and achieve the goal of meeting the needs of consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs in rural areas. A heavier regulatory hand that saddles the Internet with regulation of the old Bell system threatens to undermine the very innovation and investment that produces benefits. A light-touch policy is a smart approach to getting all of America – particularly rural communities – connected once and for all.