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.

National Master Addresses 148th Delegate Body

ED_addressDuring his sixth address to the mem­bers and public, National Master Ed Luttrell on Tuesday directly after the opening of the 148th Annual National Grange Convention focused heavily on overreach by government, such as un­necessary and often detrimental regu­lations as well as threats to personal freedoms. He also discussed challenges to the agriculture industry and system­ic global issues, calling on the federal government to reevaluated programs aiding foreign nations.

Luttrell’s internal and external ad­dresses lasted about 35 minutes each.

During that time, he told the group that improvements in agricultural sci­ence and technology are necessities for farmers who must assume these critical leadership roles thought out the world.

“Science, not fear, nostalgia, or poli­tics must be the cornerstone of the fu­ture,” he said related to the Grange’s continued support of genetic modifi­cation, new chemicals and pharmaceu­ticals.

Also a hinderance to the agriculture community is overregulation such as the Waters of the U.S. and EPA regula­tions related to coal-fired power plants, according to Luttrell.

“The Grange calls upon our elected officials at all levels to begin reducing the flood of government regulation be­fore it drowns American entrepreneurs and business owners,” Luttrell said.

Infringements on personal rights and liberties also drew empassioned discussion from Luttrell who said free speech, public displays of religion and the rights of citizens to bear arms shouldn’t be questioned thanks to our founding document, the Constitution.

“We must not stray, as this grand document gives every American the right to follow their own dreams, seek their fortune and live their life by the principles of their individual faith,” Lu­ttrell said.

Later in the speech, Luttrell spoke of continuous threats to America and the many challenges of the modern world. When speaking of the re-evaluation of aid to foreign nations, he said, “We must ensure that we help the people, not empower and enrich the dictators and warlords. We must demonstrate and teach the power of liberty to en­able their people, not tell them what to do.”

Luttrell, for the past several years, has also focused heavily on the Grange’s interest in public ed­ucation, especially that related to agriculture and STEM fields.

“The Grange urges educators at the primary, secondary and undergraduate levels to include basic knowledge of ag­riculture in their curriculum,” Luttrell said. “Every American needs to understand that nature’s laws are constant and im­mutable. The lesson that there is no free lunch, but there are limitless opportunities, must be part of education in today’s world.”

During his internal address, he talked about trademark is­sues and how we are dealing with the California situation and how these affect our budget. He urged every member to read the Declaration of Purposes and then reflect upon the prin­ciples that are enshrined in that document.

Luttrell pointed out the every member should be proud of the rich history of the Grange as we are only two years away from the 150th Session of the National Grange to be held in the D.C. area in 2016. He challenged every member to not only celebrate our history, but face the challenges of today with an understanding of the legacy passed to us.

“We must always look forward into the future while re­membering the lessons of the past,” Luttrell said.

Hospitality room place for fun, food

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Brett Johnson and her father, Massachusetts State Grange Master Matt Johnson, enjoy service in the hospitality room by John Neff, Indiana, on Monday. (Photo by: Lindsay Schroeder)

Grangers know if they want a snack or just to catch up with Grange friends at convention, the place to go is the hospitality room.

This year the hospitality room, located in 2503, is being overseen by the Indiana State Grange.

John Neff, Overseer and Youth Director, of the Indiana State Grange, with the assistance of Lucille Groves, Family Activities Chair, and Ross Smith, Executive Committee and Legislative Director are the coordinators.

“Each state was given the opportunity to create their own menu featuring products from their state,” Neff said.

Throughout the week Grangers will enjoy a wide variety of foods from each of the states in the Midwest region.  Sub sandwiches, soups, chili, sloppy joes, cheese, and cookies are all on the menu. Coffee will always be available while they are open.

Ohio served sloppy joes and chicken sandwiches in the hospitality room on Sunday.

Daryl Flowers from Ohio was found in the hospitality room. “Easy to find, food was good, great company,” Flowers said.

For the remainder of the week hours in the hospitality room vary. On Monday, the room will be open from noon to 6 p.m., with Indiana as the host. Subs are the star of the show for the day.

On Tuesday, Iowa and Minnesota are sharing duties in the room from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Illinois takes over the room on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Get ready for a sugar high, because Grangers in Illinois have been making cookies by the dozen.

Thursday, Michigan will have the hospitality room from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Soup is expected to be the hot item of the day along with other snacks.

Ohio will revisit the room on Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Wisconsin will round out the week on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. before seventh degree and from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. after the Seventh Degree.

“With all of the phone calls and speaking with all the representatives from each state, our Grangers have stepped up and we will not have any problems providing food and fellowship in the hospitality room,” Neff said.

148th Annual National Grange Convention Recap

jungle echo

Day 1 readit Click-to-Download-Newsletter
  • Communications Fellows ready to tell Grange Story
  • A warm welcome from the Midwest Region
  • Sifting through the tea leaves
  • The Grange Herd stampedes the Kalahari!
  • National Grange welcomes Programs Assistant from Pennsylvania
  • J. Burton Eller Jr. names new National Grange Legislative Director
  • Introducing the new National Grange Comptroller
  • Consider your Grange Legacy
Day 2 readit Click-to-Download-Newsletter
Day 3  Coming soon
Day 4  Coming soon
 Day 5  Coming soon

Communications Fellows ready to tell Grange story

From left to right: Christopher Szkutak, Debbie Gegare, Karie Blasingame (front), Suzy Ramm (back), Lindsay Schroeder (front).

From left to right: Christopher Szkutak, Debbie Gegare, Karie Blasingame (front),
Suzy Ramm (back), Lindsay Schroeder (front).

The 148th Annual Session of the National Grange will create many news-worthy events. From setting the policy course for the next year to celebrating the accomplishments of Granges and Grange members, a team of Grangers will be hard at work documenting this year’s activity.

This year’s communication fellows team are Debbie Gegare of Wisconsin, Karie Blasingame of Illinois, Christopher Szkutak of Massachusetts, Suzy Ramm of Oregon and Lindsay Schroeder of Pennsylvania.

This year’s fellows team is sponsored by DCI Group.

DCI is an independently-owned public affairs organization. They work with a variety of organizations to tackle policy and communication challenges. This organization has also had a long-standing relationship with the National Grange, supporting many different Grange programs.

“There are so many different stories that deserve to be covered this week. The communications fellows are essential in crafting the stories, taking photos and assisting with the digital messaging of the National Grange this week,” said Amanda Brozana, this year’s communications fellows coordinator.

Additional information about each of the fellows is as follows:

Debbie Gegare
Returning for her third year as a member of the fellows program is Debbie Gegare. She has a daughter Lexi and son Cody. She is the Overseer of Milton Grange #670 and the State Membership and Youth Director for the Wisconsin State Grange. Her children are also members at Milton Grange.

She is employed by Catholic Charities in its Community Connections program and is the Lead Skills Trainer.
She is very active as an adult leader for 4-H, FFA and National Junior Horticultural Association, or NJHA. In 4-H, she leads the music and drama and food preservation project. She is the county camp director. She coaches the FFA floriculture team. With a passion for horticulture, she has continued her involvement with NJHA as the National Co-Adviser and chairing a national NJHA contest.
“Grange has given me the opportunity to make a difference not only in my community but also my world, Gegare said. “I’m excited about the possibilities that Grange offers and look forward to continuing to share my enthusiasm about our great organization with others.”

Karie Blasingame
Karie Blasingame is an 18-year member of Prairie Grange #1832 in Boone County Ill. She is the secretary and the webmaster and publicity chair at Prairie Grange. In Boone County Pomona Grange, Blasingame is the Lecturer. She also is the Illinois State Grange Lady Assistant as well as Youth Director.

Blasingame is the deli department manager at the local Walmart where she also serves on the donation committee. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in English secondary education. She is the oldest of four girls.
“I joined the Grange at the age of 18 and since I have found it to be exactly what my family was looking for,” Blasingame said on why she joined. “We actually were never asked to be Grange members, we asked a Grange member if we could attend a meeting and they said only if you join and the rest is history.”

Christopher Szkutak
Christopher Szkutak, is a member of Uxbridge Grange, #200 in Massachusetts and the Oliver Hudson Kelley Grange # 834 of Minnesota. From Northbridge, Mass. he is a fourth generation Grange member. He has a bachelor’s in political science and mathematics from College of the Holy Cross and master’s degree in American politics and contemporary history from the School of Advanced Study, University of London. He is the Gatekeeper and Legislative Director of the Massachusetts State Grange. He served as Massachusetts Youth Ambassador from 2008-2009 and National Grange Youth Mentor (Ambassador) from 2009-2010. Christopher received the Hero of the Grange Award in 2011 for his work with the National Grange Youth Department. During the summer of 2012 he was appointed a National Grange Deputy and sent to Arkansas where he helped to reorganize Zion Oak Grange, #826 in Springdale.
A committed “AGvocate” and certified teacher he works as Technical Associate and Assistant to the director of Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom, writing agriculturally accurate curriculum for teachers to use in their classrooms while also promoting the organization through social media.

Suzy Ramm
Suzy Ramm is a member of Springwater Grange #263 and Clackamas County Pomona Grange #1 in Oregon. She has been a subordinate Grange member for almost 37 years. She was a charter member of Parkdale Junior Grange and after five years joined the subordinate Grange. She is a past Steward, Lady Assistant Steward, Lecturer and Master.

She is a past Oregon Outstanding Young Granger, National Female Young Agriculturalist and was a member of the National Youth Team. She has represented Oregon at national public speaking and sign a song contests.

Ramm has associate degrees in ornamental horticulture and landscape design and construction. After more than twenty years working in the nursery industry selling plants both on the retail and wholesale levels, she returned to school, graduating from Marylhurst University in June 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with focuses in communications/public relations, history and photography. She is employed by the Oregon State Grange and is the editor of the by-monthly Oregon State Grange Bulletin. She also serves on the state Grange communications team and is a member of the state GROW Club board.

“My Grange experience has been priceless in many respects, the friends I have made, the opportunities for travel and most recently the chance to put my education to work for an organization I believe in,” Ramm said. “But I am most appreciative for the skills I have developed in communicating my thoughts and ideas through Grange contests and activities.

Lindsay Schroeder
Lindsay Schroeder is the 2014-15 Pennsylvania State Grange Youth Ambassador and a member of Virginville Grange #1832. She is the daughter of Monte and Rebecca Schroeder. Her other Grange activities include Youth Committee Chairman and Junior Leader for Virginville Grange. Schroeder is also the Berks County Pomona Grange Flora.

Schroeder is an avid photographer and has entered several winning entries at local fairs and state Grange contests. At her church, she is a Sunday school teacher.