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Luttrell calls for common sense decision-making during speech
 

By National Grange Press Release (11/22/11)

  NOVEMBER 22, 2011 --

During his annual address Tuesday, Nov. 8, National Grange President Edward Luttrell said the organization must be a leader in advocating for rural America, American values and common sense decision-making.

Luttrell began his address by stressing the need for continued advocacy by the organization for rural broadband build out and a viable U.S. Postal Service for rural residents in front of an audience gathered for the 145th Annual National Grange Convention.

Saying local post offices are “at the heart of our hometowns,” Luttrell called for any changes to the USPS be done with the impact to rural America in mind.

In the light of proposed closures of post offices and the USPS request to change service schedules, Luttrell said the Grange “believes that all reforms should be fully debated while keeping in mind that the rural mail customer is much more likely to rely on USPS services in light of the current digital divide.”

“We suggest that Congress allow the USPS to be innovative in the modern business world and develop a competitive culture within their employees,” Luttrell said.

Regarding the digital divide, Luttrell said it is necessary for rural America to have access to broadband services in order to “shorten the distance between rural America and state-of-the-art learning and healthcare.”

“Doing more with less is something that rural Americans know very well. Broadband allows its users to do many things, but most importantly it makes us more efficient at home and at work,” Luttrell said. “Living on a back road should no longer translate to being denied access to cutting edge communication.”

During the speech, Luttrell also outlined the Grange’s position on energy, saying it is “the lifeblood of our economy and it is a major factor in the quality of our life.”

Luttrell said the Grange would like to see the immediate removal of “legislative and regulatory roadblocks to allow clean energy production to be brought on lie within the next ten years.”

Further, Luttrell said the organization “is not opposed to common sense regulations,” but wishes for President Barack Obama to “halt the growth of onerous federal regulations during this time of economic uncertainty.”

“Common sense spending” is equally necessary, Luttrell said, in order to “bring fiscal responsibility back to our nation.

“The Grange asks each elected official to lay aside their partisan politics and work together to ensure that a balanced budget is achieved,” Luttrell said.

Sometimes more than regulation, the perception of the agricultural industries by the public will shape those industries, Luttrell said, stressing that those working in agriculture must “become educators and creators of public opinion.”

Luttrell said it is imperative for producers to “communicate through all the mediums used by the consumers to ensure that agriculture is judged on facts, not myths.

For all of these things, Luttrell said the Grange is “ready to work with thousands of communities, to advocate in State Capitols around our nation and to stand firm in Washington, D.C., on the common sense principles of American values.”

 



Read the full text of the National Grange President Ed Luttrell’s speech:

 

Introduction

For the first time the National Grange meets in Annual Session in the great state of Oklahoma. The inspiration of Oklahoma’s rich Native American ancestry and the indomitable spirit of the pioneers of the great American prairie remain a defining part of our American and Grange values.

There is a reason that the Grange has prospered for the past 144 years. That reason is we have never forgotten is that we are founded on American values and our strength is in our hometown roots. The principles and values of our great nation are under constant attack in the name of political correctness and the Grange stands firm in our belief that the principles and values of America remain relevant and important to each citizen and to the future of our nation.

The foundation of America is in our hometown community. The diversity of faiths are shown by the myriad steeples that point toward the heavens in each community. Countless organizations seek to give each citizen the opportunity to learn and grow into the person that they dream to be. The strength of our great country is based not upon the size of the federal government, but upon the health of each community we call home. The roots of America which nourish our nation are the hometowns of each citizen.

Postal Service

At the heart of our hometowns is our local post office. The Grange has been one of the greatest advocates of the United States Postal Service (USPS) since our earliest days. We’ve always been willing to suggest improvements, but our goal has been to improve the USPS so that rural America receives the service so desperately needed.

We currently see the USPS attempting to evolve and living through the growing pains of a transition off federal funding and into fiscal independence. In that effort, they have asked Congress for the right to change their service schedule, which includes eliminating Saturday delivery.  The USPS has included in their proposal the right to further reduce days of service, have the flexibility to make business model alterations, and change postal rates to stay competitive in their market, without the need for Congressional approval. The USPS is also studying the possibility of closing over 10% or approximately 3,700 of their post offices to save money.

The National Grange remains a supporter of the USPS due to the critical service it provides to rural America. We do oppose the reduction of service to rural America as there are still no alternatives for many of its citizens and businesses. However, in light of the fiscal condition of the USPS and our nation, the Grange will work with the USPS and Congress to ensure that postal service to every home and business remains a reality. We call upon Congress to find solutions to the problems they have created. USPS cannot be innovative and responsive to a rapidly changing world when they are saddled with laws and rules which restrict or prohibit many common business options. If a measure is not passed to either federally fund the USPS, or allow it to operate as an autonomous organization, mail delivery will be drastically affected as early as August of 2012.

The National Grange also has an economic incentive to keep the USPS alive. Should we let the USPS fail, as the 2nd largest non-government employer in the United States we will lose over half a million jobs.

The Grange believes that all reforms should be fully debated while keeping in mind that the rural mail customer is much more likely to rely on USPS services in light of the current digital divide.  We suggest that Congress allow the USPS to be innovative in the modern business world and develop a competitive culture within their employees.

Broadband Build Out

From mail to email, the National Grange has advocated for the creation and improvement of communication infrastructure in rural America since our earliest days: first for railroads, telegraph, and postal service, then telephone service, the Interstate highway system, and more recently broadband service. The internet and connections brought by broadband is truly the bridge that will shorten the distance between rural America and state-of-the-art learning and healthcare. Living on a back road should no longer translate to being denied access to cutting edge communication.

Accessibility and affordability of broadband service is critical to rural America. Education, medical care, business, as well as instant communication and updates between family members are now common uses of high speed internet. The health of our rural communities depends upon being a part of the modern world.

Recently the National Grange briefed the Congressional Rural Caucus on the need for Rural Broadband. We partnered with large carriers such as Verizon and AT&T as well as the National Telecom Cooperatives Association, and smaller telecom and cellular providers like Windstream and CenturyLink to advocate for a collaborative proposal called America’s Broadband Connectivity (ABC) Plan. ABC was brought to the Federal Communications Commission.

Two weeks ago the FCC ruled to endorse a good portion of the ABC plan and reallocated money in the Universal Service Fund to allow rural Americans the same affordable access to broadband that the Universal Service Fund brought them with copper wires 30 years ago.  Due to the collaborative nature of these organizations, and the support of advocacy groups like the National Grange, $4.5 billion will be invested in building out Rural Broadband, and even better this investment will come from a fund already established. The Connectivity plan will redirect monies already collected.

Doing more with less is something than rural Americans know very well. Broadband allows its users to do many things, but most importantly it makes us more efficient at home and at work. Just as broadband helps us do more with less, the cost of energy requires us to do the same.

Energy

Our lives are powered by the energy created when our bodies burn calories. Our God-given ingenuity and intelligence has allowed us to harness a wide variety of other forms of energy to improve the lives of every person in America. The very strength and future of our country is dependent upon the availability and affordability of energy.

Energy is the lifeblood of our economy and it is a major factor in the quality of our life. We depend upon energy in the form of electricity which powers much of the telecommunications and personal technology revolution sweeping the world and oil which provides the bulk of the energy required for transportation. Even with conservation, refinements, and improvements in our energy usage, we know we will need even more energy in the future to maintain, if not improve our lives. It is doubtful that many Americans will voluntarily reduce their standard of living and it is not possible to go back to a simpler time before the electrification of America without massive negative environmental impact.

Coal provides approximately 45% of our needed electricity, natural gas 23%, nuclear 20%, hydro-electric 7%, and all other renewable sources provide less than 4%. Nations such as France have demonstrated that the majority of their electricity can be provided with clean nuclear generation.

The reality of our use of fossil fuels is that many nations, including ours, are adding massive qualities of greenhouse gasses to our atmosphere. Science agrees that the climate always changes and that we may have impact on those changes.

Executive orders from the President, thousands of pages of complex laws from Congress, and mountains of regulations from various federal agencies have done virtually nothing to address our nation’s energy security needs. Dams generating clean power are being removed to return streams and rivers to their “natural state” and nuclear electrical generation facilities are shut down due to age, yet neither are being replaced to ensure that we have clean, renewable power in the quantities our society needs.

Since the birth of the Grange in 1867, our organization has advocated and taught that we are the stewards of the land and we should leave the Earth in better condition than we found it. We know that the best practices in raising crops or caring for livestock and the best methods of protecting soil and water are learned through study, observation, and vigorous discussion of those findings. In addition we know those practices and methods must always be updated as new information is discovered.

The National Grange calls upon the President and Congress to immediately begin to remove legislative and regulatory roadblocks to allow clean energy production to be brought on line within the next ten years. We further call on the President to direct all Federal agencies that manage our natural resources to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the land and water resources under their jurisdiction that could be used effectively to generate or transport clean electricity within the next ten years, regardless of the previous political designation given to those land and water resources. America needs direction from our leaders, not dictates. Just as we overcame the challenges of putting a man on the moon within ten years, it is within our power to change the electrical energy supply system of America.

When America has a direction it will empower the private and public sector to follow promising research, adapt to new information, and form partnerships that allow quicker implementation to accomplish this goal. This process is proven to be far more effective than government mandates which lock all into a decision that is often more political than practical.

New designs of nuclear facilities, which are safer and may have much smaller footprints, need to be tested and approved. New hydro-electric projects need to be explored. While geo-thermal, tidal, solar, biomass, and wind power electricity generation are not substantial producers now, they serve an important niche and as technology improves may serve a larger role in electrical generation. All of these electricity generation technologies would benefit from greater access to appropriate land and water resources now managed by the federal government.

This approach doesn’t begin to solve all the problems, but it moves us in the right direction and doesn’t require brand new technologies, which may or may not be economically viable. It also frees up natural gas and coal for other valuable uses beyond burning for electrical generation.

Agriculture

2011 has been a mixed year for much of agriculture with prices generally up. It has also been a rough year for many farmers with weather challenges, a struggling economy, and uncertainty with government over-regulation.

The next farm bill is due to be renewed in 2012. More than 70 percent of all money in the last farm bill was directed to non-farm programs such as food assistance and school lunch programs. If a farm bill is passed in the next year, it may be the first to contain almost zero farm subsidies. Under the deficit reduction deal, a supercommittee of 12 members of the House and Senate will decide the fate of the 2012 Farm Bill and most likely the programs and monies funded by it. This supercommittee called the Joint Deficit Reduction Committee has told the House and Senate Ag Committees that they must cut at least 23 billion from the current or 2008 Farm Bill program baselines.

Regardless of the outcome from this supercommittee, seven billion citizens of Earth now expect access to basic needs like food, fiber and fuel. In my lifetime, our population is expected to top 9 billion, yet we continue to see a migration away from agriculture to urban centers even in underdeveloped nations that can scarcely feed themselves. As a majority of the Earth’s citizens have migrated to cities, the remaining farmers must work harder and smarter to assure that urban consumers have access to the food and fiber they need and desire. With the growing global population shifts, a new generation of agriculturalists will utilize a wide variety of business plans and will expect market forces and not government assistance to shape and dictate the success of their businesses. For this reason, those in Washington D.C. must resist setting a new course in agriculture policy and allow the market to guide our American farmers.

It is apparent that direct payments and commodity specific production subsidies to farmers are not only on the table, but will likely be ended. The Grange believes that programs such as crop insurance, research, and marketing partnerships are essential to give farmers more of a level playing field in both a local and a global market.

Investments in research and education through a variety of means including the Extension Service, 4-H, and the through our Land Grant Colleges benefit both large and small farmers. Improved and more efficient practices, disease research, and leadership development are essential to help farmers improve production, and to strengthen America’s rural communities. In addition, billions of our fellow beings around the world are alive due to improvements and discoveries by American agricultural research.

Crop Insurance, disaster payments, and marketing programs and partnerships are important keys to helping farmers and ranchers deal with volatile and unpredictable weather and markets. To ensure the health of farm communities we need systems in place to help farmers and rural communities survive the bad years and make it to the profitable years.

Long term success for agriculture is only partially dependent upon weather and markets. It is becoming apparent that the marketing of every product of agriculture will be dependent upon the perception that the public has toward each commodity. Agricultural production for the farmer and rancher has always been as much about the lifestyle and love of the land as about a profit. We must remember that while a profit is necessary, the perception of our production methods have great impact on the views and opinions of the consumer.

The terms “factory farm” or “industrial agriculture” creates an incredibly negative view of agriculture. There is research being conducted that may someday create a factory farm, such as the research funded by PETA to raise meat in a lab setting without animals, but that world does not exist today. As I have said on many occasions, the average American below the age of 50 is at least two generations removed from living on an active family farm. They do not form their opinions about the role and benefits of agricultural production based on personal experiences. The average consumer creates their opinion based upon the information that they are given through many forms of media rather than the facts as presented by agricultural groups who by their nature are workers, not talkers.

We often don’t create our own messages – messages that could improve the image of our industry. Instead, we allow the message to be created by people who know little or nothing about the day-to-day operations, needs and stewardship of those involved in agriculture. As an increasing number of consumers have little or no understanding of the farm, the need grows for everyone who cares about agriculture to become educators and creators of public opinion. We need to communicate through the all the mediums used by the consumer to ensure that agriculture is judged on facts, not myths.

How we grow our crops, harvest our crops, raise our livestock, and how we treat the land and animals impacts how the public views agriculture. We need to educate children and adults about why people choose to be farmers, ranchers, or foresters and the fact that those people cherish the land and livestock they care for. Small producers and large producers alike, share in the need to present agriculture in a positive light. If we fail to take the leadership in the arena of public opinion, those organizations that stand in opposition to agricultural interests will do so, and will win the war they have waged on the livelihood and passion of so many who live and work in agriculture.

The health of agriculture in America is dependent upon our fellow citizens viewing producers as good stewards of the earth and ethical people who care for the livestock they raise. Both small local producers and large production farmers are necessary to meet the needs of the coming decades. American consumers are demanding more locally grown products as well as many specialty products. At the same time, the population of the world continues to grow and the need for American ingenuity and skill in feeding the worlds’ hungry grows. The Grange believes that both small and large producers are filling important roles, one in meeting local demand, and the other feeding the starving around the world. Both are to be commended and we encourage producers in both groups to acknowledge the vital role that all play in feeding and clothing their fellow beings.

Regulation

This year we’ve seen regulations proposed from nearly every federal regulating agency. The Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Agriculture have all considered, proposed, or adopted regulations affecting nearly every aspect of feeding and clothing America and the world.

The Grange believes that there are too many regulations already impacting farmers, ranchers, foresters, and small business. According to the Government Accountability Office, 1,827 rulemaking proceedings were completed between October 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011. Of these, 37 were identified as having an expected economic impact of at least $100 million a year to business. No major rules were adopted that decreased regulatory burdens during the same period.

Nearly every aspect of daily life is under scrutiny from federal regulators. The Spring 2011 Unified Agenda lists 2,785 rules with 144 being major. This is an increase of over 15% in the number of major rules from the spring of 2010 to 2011. The 144 major rules alone would cost American business a minimum of $14 billion in new burdens each year.

In addition, the cost to the American people continues to rise to enforce these rules. The cost of developing, implementing, and enforcing rules continues to consume additional tax dollars and is projected to grow by at least 4% this year alone. The federal regulatory octopus is expanding its scope and reach at a rate that is faster than the growth of our economy, faster than the growth of our population, faster that the general rate of inflation, and even faster than the specific rate of inflation for our health care over the past decade.

The more regulators strangle business and innovation, the higher the cost will be to consumers. Consumers pay more for American products as the cost of doing business in our country increases. We also pay with jobs lost when American companies cannot compete against foreign business or when companies chose to relocate to other nations with fewer regulations in order to remain competitive.

The Grange is not opposed to common sense regulations, but we call upon the President to halt the growth of onerous federal regulations during this time of economic uncertainty. We also ask Congress to exercise their authority to oversee the federal agencies and remove the funding of additional major rules.

Fiscal Responsibility

The economic problems our nation has experienced over the past three years has impacted millions of Americans and will continue to impact many citizens for years to come regardless of when or how quickly the economy recovers. Many have had their retirement plans changed by the loss of their career during the time they expected to be their peak earning years. Others have lost homes or savings and it may take years or even decades to rebuild the financial security that has vanished. Many retirees have cut their lifestyles due to reductions from their investments.

Government involvement in our economy appears to have worsened and lengthened the problems from a common sense viewpoint. Unrestrained spending by our elected officials has resulted in a reduction by Standard and Poor’s of our nations bond rating for the first time in history and created doubt with foreign investors that will affect our market for years to come. Uncertainty created by regulations and massive laws have negatively affected both large and small business. Government selection of winners and losers through stimulus spending, grants, and loans has not greatly benefited the economy even as it has apparently benefitted selective campaign contributors. In addition there have been several large and public failures in these programs.

The Grange advocates for common sense actions to bring fiscal responsibility back to our nation. Congress and the President should start with balancing the budget. If deficit spending is required to meet our nation’s needs, such as in the case of war or natural disaster, then the American people will know that debt is created for a specific purpose and can hold their elected officials accountable. Until the budget is balanced it will not be possible to pay down the national debt that has already been created and continues to grow at an unacceptable rate.

The Grange asks each elected official to lay aside their partisan politics and work together to ensure that a balanced budget is achieved. We also believe that Congress should seek to implement their laws and financial solutions in a timely fashion rather than passing them to future Congresses which must act in order for those solutions to be implemented.

The American tax code has become extremely complicated. Tax rates, tax credits, and tax deductions create confusion for the average American. Businesses and individuals are required to hire tax experts in fear of IRS audits and to take advantage of a multitude of tax credits and deductions.

The National Grange calls for a simplification of the tax code. This simplification should follow some basic philosophies. It should be based upon the ability to pay and we firmly reject the idea that success in America should be punished with a heavier tax burden. Each working American should pay something to their nation. The purpose of the tax code should be raising the necessary revenue needed by a frugal government, not social engineering.

We recommend that all tax credits be reviewed by Congress with the goal that only those shown to have a positive impact on the economy be kept. Americans should be making financial decisions based on what is right for themselves and their businesses rather than how to avoid paying taxes.

Conclusion

The Grange stands ready to work in thousands of communities, to advocate in State Capitols around our nation, and to stand firm in Washington, D.C. on the common sense principles of American values. We understand that our hometown roots are what give strength to America.

2012 will be an interesting year. It is shaping up to be a year of intense partisanship due to the presidential and congressional elections. The challenges in urban, suburban, and rural America are many, but solutions will be found, issues will be addressed, and at the end of the year, we will be Americans working together.

Grange members understand, American Values, Hometown Roots!

 
 
 
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