1. Conservation and Natural Resources Stewardship
America’s farmers, ranchers and rural landowners are the country’s original environmentalist for the past two centuries. They take great pride in the good stewardship and proper husbandry of the land, water, plants animals and other natural resources under their watchful management.
We believe Americans must not sacrifice their property or surrender their constitutional rights under the guise of environment, climate change, critical habitat, urban sprawl or other initiatives. The Grange remains deeply concerned that the EPA and Corps of Engineers proposed Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulation is regulatory over-kill across America’s rural landscape. The federal government has no basis for extending its regulatory arm across all waters everywhere in the country. All streams and water¬sheds are not pristine and conversely neither are they all impaired. Common sense would seem to prioritize impaired waters and begin working from there under the intent of Clean Water Act.
The Grange will advocate adequate and full compensation in all cases of eminent domain such as easements, water rights, grazing permits and critical habitat for endangered species. We recognize that responsible stewardship is a balance between use and preservation. As the Grange engages Congress, agencies of government, the media and issue coalitions, we will strive to maintain that balance. We urge Congress and the USDA to continue voluntary incentive-based assistance for farmers, ranchers, foresters and landowners which has been so successful in preserving soil, water quality and wildlife habitat.
2. Broadband Expansion
Today’s global economy demands that every participant have access to re¬liable, high-speed Internet in order to remain competitive. Over 18 million Americans living in rural areas still lack access to this vital resource.
As our nation moves away from the old wireline methods of the past to¬wards a national high-speed wireless system, we must modernize the regulatory framework governing this technology and the companies that provide it. In addition, without additional licensed spectrum, our global competitiveness is threatened and we will be unable to achieve this goal.
The current debate over Internet regulation, often called net neutrality, causes us some concern. When 21st-century broadband access replaced 20th-century dial-up access, the very nature of the way we interact with each other fundamentally changed. Families, schools and businesses in rural areas are beginning to experience the major and measurable benefits that come with this access. There is wide agreement that Internet users should have effective access to any and all Internet content. How¬ever, The Federal Communications Commission has proposed sweeping new regulations for the Internet based on 1934 rules intended to control the national telephone monopoly back then. Broadband experts are not convinced this route is the answer and intense controversy has developed. Net-neutrality regulations may end up in court where they have been be¬fore. Net-neutrality may have to go to Congress for some sort of compromise. The Grange will be deeply involved to maintain the free flow of in¬formation and services to rural citizens and to encourage service providers to improve their networks rather than just manage traffic on their existing wires.
3. Rural Healthcare
Access to affordable healthcare should never depend on geographic location. Rural America should have the same healthcare coverage and services available to its urban counterparts.
Rural Americans are statistically older and more likely to be a part of the nearly 50 million Medicare beneficiaries, making Medicare functionality and preservation essential for rural residents.
The Grange healthcare initiatives for 2015 will include preservation of the Medicare Part D program, monitoring the 340B program which provides rare, prohibitively expensive drugs to elderly and underprivileged citizens, reducing Medicare fraud, and expanding rural high speed broadband connectivity for improved telehealth capabilities. The grange supports returning responsibility to local communities to develop their own guidelines to reduce childhood obesity.
Genetic modification, new chemicals and pharmaceuticals and even new technologies inject the unknown into our lives. The Grange answers these concerns by demanding transparent, peer reviewed, scientific research be the guidelines to our positions.
4. Postal Reform
The U.S. Postal Service has already reduced its service standards for First- Class mail delivery and plans to close 80 processing plants serving small towns and rural areas. Delivery time to rural residents will take 2-3 days longer. A 2012 Inspector General report indicated the Postal Service could undertake significant network improvements and reap large cost savings while preserving most service levels. Unfortunately, the Postal service has not taken these steps. The Grange will continue to work with the Postal Regulatory Commission to advocate equitable rural service.
Returning the United States Postal Service to a state of financial solvency is a must for America’s rural areas that still rely on the USPS for basic services.
The current structure of the USPS cannot remain if reliable mail delivery is to continue into the future. The Grange continues to advocate for a major overhaul of the USPS so they might become a fully private enterprise, capable of responding to market forces and developing a competitive culture within their employees. In the alternative, should Congress wish to keep the USPS under congressional authority and oversight, we suggest that they receive funding from the federal government and be relieved of their obligation to prepay future retiree health benefits; a burden that currently costs them over $5.5 billion a year.
Only through this kind of dramatic restructuring can the USPS continue fulfilling their obligations to the many Americans they serve.
5. Rural Education/Agriculture Ed
Every child deserves a quality education, regardless of location. Parents, teachers, and local school boards are the best candidates to set the standards by which their schools will operate.
The Grange will work to repeal the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and other federally mandated school lunch requirements. The Grange will also seek improvements to the No Child Left Behind Act and federally proposed testing standards. In addition, the Grange supports installing permanent anti-bullying procedures and policies within America’s public schools.
Similarly, it is essential that we make an investment in our next generation of growers and producers by granting them the opportunity to take an interest in agriculture and the vital purpose it serves to every global citizen. The Grange will work with public schools across the nation to incorporate an agricultural component into their annual science curriculum, helping to ensure that kids across the country develop the most basic knowledge of where food comes from and how it is produced.
The National Grange strongly supports agriculture education including agriculture science in school, Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H and FFA.
6. Debt Reduction
The ramifications of the 2008 financial collapse are still being felt in communities all across the nation. The effects of this downturn have been dis¬proportionally felt in rural areas where the poverty rate remains at over 15%, a noticeable jump from the national poverty rate of 13.2%.
Our nation’s increasing debt level posses a risk to our national security, both economically and militarily, and diminishes our ability to ensure future profitability. Our nation’s debt has reached $17.8 trillion. The Grange will fight for the passage of a balanced budget amendment; understanding that the government cannot spend more than it receives. The Grange also supports withholding legislators’ pay in the event of a government shutdown, but insists that payroll continue for all military personnel.
In addition, the National Grange encourages the Congressional Budget Office to utilize dynamic scoring in their calculations and projections.
7. Energy Independence
Dependence on imported energy and high energy prices threaten our national security and economic prosperity. The Grange advocates a national energy policy that will encourage the development all forms of domes¬tic energy including fossil fuels, bio fuels, wind, solar and hydroelectric. Renewable energy from our nation’s farms, better utilization of traditional domestic energy sources and enhanced energy conservation are the keys to reducing our dependence on imported energy and combating climate change.
The National Grange endorses the goal of generating at least 25% of America’s energy needs from domestic renewable resources by January 1, 2025. To assist in achieving this goal, we support increased development and use of ethanol and ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE) in gasoline blends with adequate income tax incentives to make the production and use of ethanol and ETBE economically feasible.
We simultaneously urge the repeal of laws and regulations that have discouraged United States’ energy production by private enterprise and seek an end to regulatory hurdles not based on sound science or practical observation.
8. Immigration Reform
Undocumented immigration increases the risk of criminal/terrorist activity, presents a danger to public health, promotes the creation of a permanent underclass and diminishes our national sovereignty. Growers and producers across the country are heavily dependent on migrant seasonal workers for the annual harvest of their crops and produce.
Working with groups like the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, the Grange will strive to install an effective and fair immigration policy that secures our borders, provides a sensible path to citizenship while simultaneously providing necessary farm labor at an affordable rate for America’s farmers and ranchers.
9. Cultivate Civic Participation
We, as citizens of the United states, are stewards of our resources, rights and way of life. It is our responsibility to insure these are intact for future generations. As a community service-based organization, the National Grange has a long history of uniting local communities for the advancement of American values and ideals. Of all the developed nations in the world, the United States ranks second from the bottom in regards to voter turnout.
The general apathy many Americans feel toward government and the legislative process has most certainly contributed to our steady decline in the global environment, just as substantial civic participation in other countries has contributed to their rise and success. Strengthening civic participation in our society by acknowledging the roles of language, faith, free enterprise, patriotism, and technology is the most effective way to guarantee our liberty, promote peaceful dialogue and maintain our way of life.
Through our local and state Grange projects, as well as the National Grange’s Apathy Not Allowed program, we will continue our devotion to ensuring that every American citizen understands the importance of civic participation and is given the opportunity to take part in our democratic process.
10. Increase Global Trade
The United States has the safest, most abundant and diverse food supply in the world and we must work hard to defend this reputation and spread our goods across the globe. However, the World Trade Organization has twice ruled against the U.S.COOL program as it is being implemented. The Grange calls upon the Administration and, if need be, Congress to find a solution to this problem in 2015.
The National Grange supports Country-Of-Origin Labeling (COOL). The Grange also encourages maintaining funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Program (FMD), as both of these vital programs work to ensure the sustainment and growth of market access for American goods domestically and around the world.
The Grange will work with the President, Congress and agriculture groups to negotiate Fast Track Authority (TPA) to jump-start trade agreements, secure the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Pacific Rim countries and make progress toward the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partner¬ship (TTIP) with the European Union. (TTIP)As a leading exporter of agricultural goods, the United States should always take measures to ensure that the wellbeing of our farmers and ranchers are a top priority in trade dispute resolutions.