Leadership of the National Farmers Union and National Grange Meet On Issues

L to R: Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union President; Ed Luttrell, President of the National Grange; Burton Eller, National Grange Legislative Director.

(L to R): Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union President; Ed Luttrell, President of the National Grange; Burton Eller, National Grange Legislative Director.

Farmers Union president Roger Johnson paid a visit to Grange headquarters in Washington this week to see Grange president Ed Luttrell and Grange legislative director Burton Eller.  The main topic of conversation was the WTO ruling against our Country of Origin (COOL) meat labeling regulations and how the U.S. might avoid serious economic trade sanctions resulting from the ruling.  Johnson said his group will encourage the Administration to appeal the case back to WTO and give USDA the chance to address potential labeling modifications.  He predicts any WTO non-compliance by COOL  can be remedied administratively without getting Congress involved.

 

Grange Urged to Help Resolve COOL Crisis

IMG-20141021-00136

(L to R): Ed Luttrell, President of the National Grange, The Honorable Edward Avalos , Under Secretary of Agriculture, USDA, Burton Eller, Grange Legislative Director.

USDA Under Secretary Ed Avalos urged the National Grange to become involved in crafting a solution to the second adverse ruling on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) by the World Trade Organization (WTO).  Avalos said Secretary Vilsack would welcome the Grange’s input.  Under the WTO ruling, it’s not a question of whether the U.S. must change its stance on COOL  but how such changes can prevent retaliatory trade practices by Canada and Mexico.  The Agricultural Marketing Service, which is the lead U.S. charged with COOL implementation, reports directly to Avalos.

President Ed Luttrell sits down with National Farm Bureau President to discuss policy issues

IMG-20141021-00135

(L to R) Ed Luttrell, President of the National Grange and Bob Stallman, President of American Farm Bureau

National Grange President Ed Luttrell and Legislative Director Burton Eller met October 21 in Washington, DC with National Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman and Public Policy Director Dale Moore.  They discussed the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling against the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law and the regulations issued by USADA which were successfully challenged by Canada and Mexico .  The WTO ruling opens the door for trade sanctions by Mexico and Canada against US products entering those countries.  Both organizations pledged to work toward a solution to COOL that will be WTO compliant and prevent sanctions against U.S. goods and services.  Both organizations are committed to continuing the fight against the proposed EPA and Corps of Engineers Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulations.  They also discussed potential legislative agendas for the post-election lame duck session of congress as well the anticipated political and regulatory climates in Washington for 2015.

Tidal Wave Heads for EPA’s Waters of the U. S. Regulation

eparegulationReaction to the EPA and Corps of Engineers proposal to expand regulatory jurisdiction to all waters of the U.S. is growing into a tsunami of resistance.

The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy sent a formal letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and the Corps Maj. Gen. John Peabody urging them to withdraw the proposed rule. The SBA Office of Advocacy says the proposed rule is in error because:

1) The Agencies use the incorrect baseline for Regulatory Flexibility Act certification

2) The rule imposes costs directly on small business

3) The rule will have significant economic impact on small business

4) The limited economic analysis which the agencies submitted with the rule provides ample evidence of a potentially significant economic impact

5) The Office of Advocacy advises the agencies to withdraw the rule

In other action, a coalition of 63 business group members of the Waters Advocacy Coalition sent a nine-page letter to McCarthy and Secretary of the Army John McHugh outlining their “serious concerns” such as:

1) The agencies continue to issue new explanations throughout the comment period creating a moving target for public comment

2) Separate from the proposed rule-making, the agencies are redefining the “ordinary high water mark” without the required public notice and comment

3) The Scientific Advisory Board has raised serious concerns with significant components of the proposed rule

4) EPA maps that rely on U.S. Geological Service data depict only a portion of the land and waters subject to the proposed rule

5) The agencies have failed to engage the States and the small business community

U.S. House of Representatives Pass Bill to Halt Land Grab

into swiftcurrent lakeWASHINGTON, D.C — The House of Representatives has passed H.R.5078 Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Act of 2014 with a bipartisan vote of 262-152. The legislation is an attempt to halt the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed “Waters of the United States” regulation.

“The proposed WOTUS regulation by EPA and the Corps is a thinly veiled land grab attempt by the federal government,” according to Ed Luttrell, President of the National Grange.  “Recently released maps by the EPA show that virtually every farmer, rancher and landowner would be adversely impacted by this regulation.”

The proposed rule has come under fire because of its breadth of jurisdiction.  Among other things, all perennial, intermittent and ephemeral streams would be part of the rule because they are considered tributaries that are “physically and chemically connected” downstream to traditional navigable waters.

“This Legislation is necessary because, in my view, the EPA does not seem to understand the real world effects these regulations will have on farmers across the country,” according to House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Colin Peterson, D-Minn.  The bill’s original sponsor, Representative Steve Southerland, R-FL, citing the proposed regulation as the very definition of regulatory creep, said “This (regulation) really facilitates a capture of private property using the Clean Water Act and this onerous authority as a tool for imminent domain.”

The Senate is not expected to consider a WOTUS bill until after the November elections. Over 30 senators have sponsored legislation similar to the House-passed version.  The White House has threatened a veto.  Grange members are encouraged to contact their senators during the upcoming October election cycle recess and ask them to vote for legislation to curtail the EPA and Corps regulatory overreach on water in the lame duck (November-December) session of Congress.

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.


UPDATE: Nation’s Top State Agriculture Officials Call on EPA to Scrap “ Waters of the U.S.” Proposed Regulation

Members of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) voted unanimously at their recent annual meeting to petition EPA and the Corps of Engineers to withdraw the proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule.  NASDA joins the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), Public Lands Council (PLC), National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA),  American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and other agricultural organizations in calling for the withdrawal.  Several agricultural groups have compiled a series of new maps to demonstrate the far-reaching effects of EPA’s proposal.   In an interesting counter development, a group of small craft brewers, coordinated by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), are rallying behind EPA’s proposal.


UPDATE: Tidal Wave Heads for EPA’s Waters of the U. S. Regulation

Reaction to the EPA and Corps of Engineers proposal to expand regulatory jurisdiction to all waters of the U.S. is growing into a tsunami of resistance.

This week the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy sent a formal letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and the Corps Maj. Gen. John Peabody urging them to withdraw the proposed rule. The SBA Office of Advocacy says the proposed rule is in error because:

  1. The Agencies use the incorrect baseline for Regulatory Flexibility Act certification
  2. The rule imposes costs directly on small business
  3. The rule will have significant economic impact on small business
  4. The limited economic analysis which the agencies submitted with the rule provides ample evidence of a potentially significant economic impact
  5. The Office of Advocacy advises the agencies to withdraw the rule

 

In other action this week,  coalition of 63 business group members of the Waters Advocacy Coalition sent a nine-page letter to McCarthy and Secretary of the Army John McHugh outlining their “serious concerns” such as:

  1. The agencies continue to issue new explanations throughout the comment period creating a moving target for public comment
  2. Separate from the proposed rule-making, the agencies are redefining the “ordinary high water mark” without the required public notice and comment
  3. The Scientific Advisory Board has raised serious concerns with significant components of the proposed rule
  4. EPA maps that rely on U.S. Geological Service data depict only a portion of the land and waters subject to the proposed rule
  5. The agencies have failed to engage the States and the small business community

 

National Grange President’s September Message

The summer season is waning and fall is quickly approaching. Now would be a great time to reflect on what it means to be a Granger and to take the lessons with you to others out in the world. And don’t forget about the 148th Annual National Grange Convention in Sandusky, Ohio. It’s going to be a great one!

National Grange President’s August Message

Happy August everybody! We’re inching ever closer to the 148th Annual National Grange Convention in Sandusky, Ohio and if you wan’t to be recognized as a Distinguished Grange while at the event, the deadline to apply is August 15th! In addition, watch the video to hear about our great news and find out the types of events that make excellent Grange activities.

National Grange and 332 Patient Groups Join Together to Ask HHS Secretary Burwell to Reduce Barriers to Care in Qualified Health Plans

Urge Administration to Address Limited Benefits, High Cost-sharing, and Lack of Plan Transparency 

Washington, DC (July 30, 2014) — The National Grange, along with three-hundred-and-thirty-two patient groups from around the country, has signed onto a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Sylvia Mathews Burwell calling for immediate measures to reduce barriers to care for patients who have purchased policies through the Health Insurance Marketplace (the “exchanges”). The letter comes as some patients with chronic conditions have faced difficulty accessing crucial medications and other health services they need in some Qualified Health Plans, and as HHS is reviewing plans for 2015.

In the letter, the 333 signatories state, “We, the undersigned patient and community organizations representing millions of patients and their families, have been and continue to be committed to the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)…. We are encouraged by high enrollment numbers in the new Health Insurance Marketplace, and by early data showing low-income people who were previously uninsured are taking advantage of premium and cost-sharing assistance.” However, they add, “At the same time, we are increasingly aware of evidence that new enrollees, especially those with chronic health conditions, are still facing barriers to care.”

Today’s letter to Secretary Burwell builds on the “I Am Essential” campaign that brought together hundreds of patient groups in a coalition that pressed for comprehensive coverage in the Essential Health Benefits. The coalition has been re-launched under the name “I Am (Still) Essential” to address ACA implementation issues and, as stated in its letter, to work with Secretary Burwell on efforts to revise the Essential Health Benefits for future plan years.

“The National Grange believes that all Americans should have equal access to quality healthcare,” National Grange President Edward Luttrell said on Wednesday. “If we can fix some of these core issues, more Americans will be able to achieve a higher quality of living.”

The coalition highlights three areas of concern with the Qualified Health Plans: limited benefits, high cost-sharing, and a lack of transparency and uniformity.

“Patients are grateful that the Affordable Care Act means they cannot be turned away from health coverage because of their medical conditions,” said Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. “But limited benefit coverage, cost-sharing for medications that can reach as high as 50%, and a lack of transparency in several plans mean many patients, particularly those with chronic or complex conditions, are not receiving the care and medications they need.”

In addition to the National Grange, signatories of the “I Am (Still) Essential” letter include such leading national groups as The AIDS Institute, American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, American Lung Association, Easter Seals, Epilepsy Foundation, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Lupus Foundation of America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Kidney Foundation, Parkinson’s Action Network, and United Cerebral Palsy, as well as many other national patient organizations and state-based groups and chapters.

In the letter to HHS Secretary Burwell, the coalition asks HHS to enforce the ACA’s non-discrimination provisions, prohibit restrictive formularies and inadequate provider networks, address high cost-sharing, including inappropriate use of coinsurance, and improve plan transparency so that consumers can make informed decisions.

“The ACA was intended to provide quality, affordable health care to patients, but in the first year of implementation, many patients are still facing difficulties gaining access to medications and the specialists that they need,” said Angela Ostrom, Chief Operating Officer & Vice President Public Policy at the Epilepsy Foundation. “By joining together, we hope HHS will hear the patient community’s unified voice and address the need for reforms that ensure meaningful access to care.”

“When vulnerable patients, such as those with mental illness, are denied access to drug coverage, the consequences can be dire,” said Andrew Sperling, Director of Federal Legislative Advocacy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We have outlined some necessary steps that will assure that all enrollees can obtain access to the medications, providers, and services they need to improve and maintain their quality of life, as intended by health reform, so the ACA can deliver on its promises for people with chronic health conditions.”

The full text of the letter to HHS Secretary Burwell along with the signatories can be found at: http://bit.ly/stillessential

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.