National Grange Supports the SAVE Medicare Home Health Act

Medicare reforms needed to protect rural access to home health for vulnerable seniors

177006807WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Grange expressed support today for the Securing Access Via Excellence (SAVE) Medicare Home Health Act introduced last week by Congressmen Greg Walden (R-OR) and Tom Price (R-GA) to restore funding for skilled home health services that are vital to American seniors, particularly those living in rural parts of the country.

The SAVE Medicare Home Health Act halts the 3.5 percent annual across-the-board payment cut inflicted on the Medicare home health benefit on January 1 beginning in 2015 and replaces it with reforms that include measures to keep patients in their homes. The legislation establishes a program to reduce hospital readmissions and strengthen care quality, which will achieve the same Medicare savings as the arbitrary “rebasing” cut, while also safeguarding patients and their healthcare providers.

“We thank Congressmen Greg Walden and Tom Price for taking an important legislative step to protect access to a vital Medicare service that so many seniors and disabled people in our country rely on for healthcare,” National Grange President Ed Luttrell said Tuesday. “We are especially aware of the unique needs of America’s rural communities and are encouraged by reforms like the SAVE Medicare Home Health Act that ensure healthcare is available to every person who needs it, no matter where they reside.”

Unless corrected, the funding cuts to home healthcare put seniors, caregivers and their families at serious risk for losing access to care. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates that because of this cut, “approximately 40 percent” of home health agencies will be operating at a net loss by 2017, risking the care of 1.3 million seniors and nearly 500,000 healthcare workers.

Analyses by Avalere health demonstrate that Medicare beneficiaries are older, poorer, sicker and more likely to be from an ethnic or racial minority than the Medicare population as a whole. Additionally, many of these home health beneficiaries reside in rural communities, where the nearest medical facility is miles or hours away from their home.

For many of these seniors with chronic and acute conditions, travelling long distances for care is impractical. If they lose access to skilled home healthcare due to arbitrary funding cuts, many will be forced into costly intuitional care or worse, forego needed medical care altogether.

Established in 1867, The National Grange, a nonpartisan, nonprofit fraternal organization, is the oldest agricultural and rural community service organization. With more than 2,100 local chapters, the Grange has evolved into the nation’s leading rural advocacy organization and a major benefactor to local communities. There are more than 160,000 members across the United States.

Chartered California State Grange reorganized, officers installed

IMG_20140712_114305722

Officers of the newly reorganized chartered California State Grange sit in front of the group of more than 30 members who were at Orangevale Grange Hall on Saturday for the reorganizational meeting.

ORANGEVALE, Calif. (July 12, 2014) – On Saturday, more than 30 members from 10 of the 24 eligible Granges in California came together at the Orangevale Grange Hall to complete the process of reorganization and witness the installation of officers for the chartered California State Grange.

National Grange President Ed Luttrell was the presiding officer, installing the new chartered California State Grange President Ed Komski, of Fallbrook, Calif., as well as several other officers.

“We are so happy to have the members of these Granges fully integrated with our national organization again,” Luttrell said after the day’s activities were complete.

Komski said the members gathered for the reorganizational meeting cannot wait to get back to work, serving their hometowns in true Grange fashion.

“These folks are Grangers, have always been Grangers, and just want to work within the bonds of fraternal fellowship to meet the needs of their communities, educate one another and advocate at the local and state level important issues of the day,” Komski said.

The new State Grange was reorganized several months after leaders of the former California State Grange notified the National Grange Executive Board that they had voted to disaffiliate from the national organization. This disaffiliation has caused great confusion on the part of many of our members in local Granges in California and the general public.

“So it was decided a new, officially-chartered State Grange in California needed to be organized to take the former Grange’s place,” Komski said.

“Every Grange member and every Grange from the State of California is welcome to join this  newly reorganized California State Grange,” Luttrell said.

National Grange President’s July Message

July is upon us and we have a lot to be thankful for as Americans. As the Grange, we should celebrate America and its birthday! We are also closing in on our 150th anniversary. It’s amazing what we have accomplished as an organization during this time. Try and think of some ways that your Grange can add to our legacy.

“For the Common Good: Some Achievements of Subordinate Granges in the National Grange Community Service Contest” e-book now exclusively available to Amazon Kindle Store

ForTheCommonGoodImageWASHINGTON, D.C. – On Monday, June 30, the National Grange released its newest e-book, “For the Common Good: Some Achievements of Subordinate Granges in the National Grange Community Service Contest,” as a Kindle download available through Amazon’s Kindle Store.

“The Grange was built around improving and bettering one’s community, “ National Grange President Ed Luttrell said upon the release of For the Common Good. “The community service projects that many of our past Granges accomplished should give our current members a great sense of pride and motivate them to do more for the places they call home.”

The National Grange has signed a 90-day exclusivity deal for ““For the Common Good: Some Achievements of Subordinate Granges in the National Grange Community Service Contest” with Amazon and the Amazon Kindle Store. The e-book will be added to the Barnes and Noble Nook Store after the exclusivity deal expires.

This is the fourteenth e-book the National Grange has released. Previous releases include “Mentor in the Grange,” “Semi-Centennial History of the Patrons of Husbandry,” “Origin and Progress of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry in the United States,” “Agriculture and Progress: The Farmers Great Awakening,” “The Granger Movement in New England,” “Friend of the Farmer,” “Legal and Economic Influence of the Grange,” “Notes and Quotes,” “Proud Heritage,” “First Century of Service,” “People, Pride and Progress,” “The Early Granges of New York State: The First 10 Years” and the “2014 National Grange Digest of Laws.”

“These books tell a very interesting history of the American people, spirit and culture,” Luttrell said.

“For the Common Good: Some Achievements of Subordinate Granges in the National Grange Community Service Contest” is available as an e-book for $0.99. BUY IT NOW.

Established in 1867, The National Grange, a nonpartisan, nonprofit fraternal organization, is the oldest agricultural and rural community service organization. With more than 2,100 local chapters, the Grange has evolved into the nation’s leading rural advocacy organization and a major benefactor to local communities. There are more than 160,000 members across the United States.

National Grange presents Maryland woman with National Ag Advocate of the Year Award

hoto: Huber (right) presents award to Wilcom with George Mayo (left), Maryland Ag in the Classroom Executive Director

Photo: Huber (right) presents award to Wilcom with George Mayo (left), Maryland Ag in the Classroom Executive Director

HERSHEY, Pa. (June 25, 2014) – During the National Agriculture in the Classroom conference this morning at the Hershey Lodge, National Grange Board of Directors Chairwoman Betsy Huber presented the annual National Ag Advocate of the Year Award to Evelyn Wilcom of Frederick, Md.

Wilcom, who was not raised in a rural environment, became a champion of agriculture and ag education after marrying and moving to a dairy farm where she and her husband, Mike, raised their three sons.

Wilcom is a retired nurse and has spent countless hours volunteering for organizations that introduce the general public and students to agriculture at shopping centers, fairs, festivals and in schools.

 She worked to get children’s books about agriculture into Maryland schools, created and fundraised for Frederick’s “City Streets, Country Roads” fair, and assisted with teacher training for agriculture in the classroom. She is past chair of both the Frederick County and Maryland Farm Bureau Women’s Committees, past board member of the Frederick County Farm Bureau, and current chair of its Education Committee. She also serves as chair of the Elementary Education Committee for the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation. She was also recently recognized for her work with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Maryland Farm Bureau.

Huber, during her remarks at a breakfast honoring Wilcom, said education is a key priority of the Grange.

PhotoL Evelyn Wilcom

PhotoL Evelyn Wilcom

“Think of rural America in the 1860s. Farm families were spread over the wide open spaces, with little or no opportunity for educational advancement or even social interaction,” Huber said. “The Grange founders recognized this need and created the Grange to serve as the social center of rural communities and source of information about happenings in the outside world. The Grange also was a forum for discussions and learning about scientific advancements and new farming methods.”

Huber said this focus on education remains a cornerstone of the organization, introducing those who do not come from farms to agriculture in many ways. The National Ag Advocate Award, she said, allows the Grange to recognized individuals like Wilcom, who inspire children and adults alike and bring to them information and awareness about agriculture.

Huber said she was especially proud to present the award to a fellow Grange member. Wilcom is a member of New Market Grange #362, New Market, Md.

“She is a model for our members who have dedicated themselves to our educational principles,” Huber said after she learned Wilcom would be the award recipient. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to present her with this very fitting tribute.”

# # #

Established in 1867, The National Grange, a nonpartisan, nonprofit fraternal organization, is the oldest agricultural and rural community service organization. With more than 2,100 local chapters, the Grange has evolved into the nation’s leading rural advocacy organization and a major benefactor to local communities. There are more than 160,000 members across the United States. For more information on the National Grange, visit our website at www.nationalgrange.org.

National Grange President’s June Message

National Grange President Ed Luttrell welcomes you to the month of June! Did you know that June is National Dairy Month? No? Well it is. It’s also a great time for your Grange to get ready for the new membership year in July. We want to see YOUR GRANGE on the Grange honor roll!

First artifacts of ‘Justi Collection’ donated, to be digitized

Mary and Ed1WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 13 was a special day at the National Grange office when daughter of first Grange Youth Director, Wib Justi, met with National President Ed Luttrell to present just a portion her father’s collection of artifacts for the National Grange.

Mary Justi Sheppard, of Chesapeake Bay, Va., delivered framed photos, scrapbooks, audio recordings, pins and other memorabilia along with boxes of Wib’s personal collection to the headquarters.

“These are things that he had begun marking and told my mother [June Justi] were specifically to come to National Grange,” Sheppard said Friday as she opened a box to show Luttrell.

EdpointsMarylooks1Luttrell said the addition of the Justi materials were incredible.

“These boxes tell an amazing story of the organization and the things our youth were able to accomplish,” Luttrell said. “And they’re just the start of what Mary expects to find as part of her father’s well-kept collection.”

Luttrell said much of the materials would be digitized in the coming months and years and would be stored as the Justi Collection at the National Grange building.

“Historians will look through this material and get a much better sense of the great things Grangers took part in and initiated thanks to Wib’s dedication to preserving this history,” Luttrell said.

As materials are digitized and released, Luttrell and Sheppard said they hoped those who supported continuation of youth programs in the Grange would take time to review materials and donate to the Youth Fund through the National Grange Foundation, a 501(c)3, tax-deductible charity, that supports things like leadership training and youth officer participation at National Session.

pgfromwesticreations“He would just be over the moon with knowing his collection could help today’s Grange Youth,” Sheppard said. “He’d be delighted.”





National Grange files brief supporting Samsung in recent litigation with Apple, Inc.

AppleSamsungGavelWASHINGTON, D.C. – On May 30th, the National Grange filed an amicus brief opposing the recent settlement of $399 million awarded to Apple, Inc. in regards to recent intellectual property infringement litigation with Samsung Electronics Company. The National Grange respectfully urged the U.S. District Court to reverse the jury’s excessive award for design patent infringement in order to protect access to smartphone technology for residents of the nation’s rural and remote areas.

In the brief, the National Grange argues that the Northern District Court of California’s massive jury awarded settlement for design patent infringement has potentially harmful repercussions for America’s rural communities. Because of the importance of smartphones to consumers, and in particular to the rural and agricultural community, the National Grange says that the Court should give careful consideration to the potential harm that may come from an excessive design patent damages award in this case and other cases involving smartphones.

The National Grange is dedicated to ensure that the rural residents of America have the resources they need to compete in both global and local economies, as well as have the same access to quality goods and services that those residents in urban areas come to expect. Smartphones, like the Samsung products subject to appeal, provide a key role in providing internet access to America’s rural communities, a goal the National Grange is firmly behind.

Although broadband internet is growing through advances in infrastructure, home access to broadband in rural areas lags far behind that of urban communities. With limited wired options for internet access, many rural residents rely on their smartphones’ wireless broadband capabilities as their primary source of internet access. The National Grange believes that the cost of permitting burdensome judicial remedies for design patent infringement, as in the current case, would likely be passed on to the consumer, rural and urban alike, in the form of increased prices and reduced access to essential mobile wireless functionality.

Grange issues comments on need for open spectrum auction

commtowerruralToo often, wireless service in rural America remains spotty, with weak coverage and some hard-to-reach areas receiving essentially no service at all. And yet wireless broadband is indispensible to farmers and to everyone in rural America, providing not only critical weather and crop information, but telemedicine, educational opportunities, and vital connections to public safety.

This month we joined a broad coalition of 25 other organizations, including groups representing farmers, rural America, equipment dealers, educators, bankers, and telecommunications organizations in a comment letter filed with the Federal Communications Commission urging the FCC “to adopt rules and policies that promote wireless competition in rural markets.” As the letter noted, “more must be done to encourage new and better service, increase consumer choice, and spur innovation.”

Fortunately, there is a great opportunity to expand coverage and service in rural America on the horizon: the upcoming incentive auctions for wireless spectrum, the first such auctions in almost a decade. In particular, the auction for the 600 megahertz bloc of spectrum presents a critical opportunity to jumpstart upgrades in service. This spectrum will not only make more airwaves available for the needs of rural America but, because of its unique characteristics, will also expand the number and types of devices available for use in rural America, leading to greater consumer choice and more functionality on the devices we use.

And this type of spectrum will enable upgrades to faster, more reliable networks in rural communities across the country. If we want the same quality of service and the same technologies that Americans in cities and suburbs already enjoy spread across rural America, then it all starts with spectrum.

In fact, the Grange, and others in the ag community, would like to see a race to build out rural America with new technologies and services. For this to happen, it’s important that the upcoming auction not be constrained by artificial limits on who can bid but be open to all bidders who are willing to participate. We wouldn’t conduct a cattle auction by artificially keeping some bidders out; it’s the same with communications. Having more bidders means the price realized for the spectrum will likely be higher. And if the price is higher, that means more spectrum will come to market, which will in turn improve service.

Indeed, this is the conclusion of a piece just published by scholar Anna-Maria Kovacs on the incentive auction and mobile broadband competition in rural America. She notes that thanks to nationwide pricing plans from larger competitors, “the benefits of competition are surely flowing to rural areas even where there are fewer competitors.” In contrast, providing low-band spectrum at below-market prices isn’t going to do anything to address the disparity in revenue potential and thus the deterrents to investment in rural America. So excluding the very carriers that have committed to provide greater service to more people in more places makes no sense from the perspective of rural America. Smaller carriers have had success in purchasing low-band spectrum in past auctions; while some carriers are exploiting this spectrum, some of it has also been sold to larger carriers in the secondary market when carriers could not meet the high costs to build out the spectrum. So Kovacs concludes that misguided attempts to put a hand on the scale and lower costs to favored competitors are “likely to backfire”:

By limiting the additional low-band spectrum that can be bought by those two national carriers who actually serve rural America in the hope that the other two national carriers will enter those markets, the FCC is more likely to harm than help rural consumers, who need all the bandwidth their serving carriers can supply. Those willing to serve will lack capacity to meet rural subscribers’ explosive demand for mobile broadband, while those who are given capacity have indicated no willingness to serve.

 That’s why this incentive auction is so important for rural America and our nation’s farmers and why we were pleased to sign this letter. Now, it’s up to the FCC to ensure that the auction will be a success, so we can see the results right here in rural America.

National Grange President’s May Message

Members! Members! Members! That’s the topic of this month’s message. National Grange President Ed Luttrell discusses why getting new members is important for growing the Grange!