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National Grange News
Policies set at National Grange Conention in Cromwell
 

By Leroy Watson, National Grange Legislative Director

  JANUARY 2009 --

The 142nd Annual Convention of the National Grange held in Cromwell, CT, held November 13-16, 2008 is now history. This year, the National Grange considered 170 separate policy resolutions, of which 140 resolutions were either adopted or were determined to be covered by existing National Grange legislative policy.

For more than 140 years, the National Grange has offered its members one of the purest, most effective, and most direct forms of political advocacy through its local, grassroots, and resolution based policy development process. On behalf of the officers, delegates, and directors of the National Grange, we would like to say “Thank-You” to each and every one of the thousands of individual Grange members and local Grange chapters across the country that took time to draft and submit a Grange resolution for consideration in 2008. Not every local Grange resolution reached the level of consideration by the National Grange delegates in 2008. But every resolution debated, discussed and considered by every local, county or state Grange chapter across the country this year demonstrates the Grange’s commitment to creating a strong, collective voice in local, state, and national public policy discussions as well as providing our members with an opportunity to “Celebrate the Responsibilities of Citizenship.”
   
Agriculture and Rural Development – National Grange delegates expressed support for consistent regulations dealing with false and misleading claims on labels and in advertising dairy products with special attention to hormone-free, drug-free, and pesticide-free claims.
   
The National Grange opposes the relocation of Plum Island research and disease control and supports the renovation of Plum Island Animal Disease Center from a Biosecurity Level 3 facility to a Biosecurity Level 4 facility. The delegates recommended that Plum Island Animal Disease Center be renovated in such a manner to investigate cures and controls for diseases that could infect both human and animal population, and that Plum Island Animal Disease Center renovations include necessary security measures to prevent the release of pathogens into the environment resulting from human error or acts of terrorism.
   
The National Grange will support continuation of the current Farm Bill regulations so that farm parcels that are less than the new 10-acre minimum, and have a previous history in the federal farm program, can continue in the program.
   
The National Grange will oppose legislation that would amend the federal criminal code to impose any fine and/or prison term for possessing, shipping, transporting, purchasing, selling, delivering, or receiving any horse, any horse flesh or horse carcass for legal purposes.
   
National Grange delegates reiterated their support for scientifically proven, best industry practices used in chicken and egg production. They opposed efforts to restrict commercial chicken and egg production through legislative and/or referendum initiatives.
   
National Grange delegates endorsed amendments to current regulations governing the National Beef Check Off program to encourage the formation of regional beef councils for small beef producing states. National Grange delegates also pledged support for the efforts of the Board of Directors of Tobacco Associates, Inc. and the grower leadership in all tobacco producing states to unite in seeking a national tobacco export promotion check-off to fund promotion of U.S. grown tobacco leaf in the world market.
   
Recognizing that “...the movement of agricultural products across our country as well as exports to foreign countries is vital to the economy of the nation,” National Grange delegates pledged support for drafting new trade agreements “that will be beneficial and flexible while protecting not only U.S. agriculture but also the American dream.”
   
Conservation and Energy Issues– In light of the devastating wildfires sweeping across Southern California and other areas in 2008, Grange delegates advocated immediate political action to support the harvesting of fire-ravaged timber from fire recovery zones.
   
The National Grange will call on all local, state, and federal agencies involved in groundwater management to develop and institute an emergency program to restore groundwater resources while at the same time defining agriculture as a priority sector for essential water use and management. Grange delegates believe the highest national priority for utilization of water should focus on maintaining our ability to produce food. Non-food related agricultural production, such as the production of ornamental plants or fertilization and watering of commercial and private lawns should have lower priority in local, state and national water management plans.
   
The National Grange will oppose any attempt to make the Mt. St. Helens National Monument a National Park.
   
Grange delegates supported a ban on the use of Bispenol A in all plastics because of possible behavioral side effects to fetuses, infants, and young children that have been exposed to the chemical.
   
Finally in response to the energy crisis, Grange delegates proposed to support increasing reliance on renewable energy. However, the National Grange will oppose passage of any new law mandating energy technologies that have not been proven feasible or any new law eliminating existing, successful energy technologies.
   
Honoring Veterans – “ We must never forget,” the delegates expressed in their policy statement, “that our freedoms exist because our forefathers fought and died for them and our troops continue to fight for freedom throughout the world .” Reflecting this responsibility, the delegates pledged to lobby the United States Congress to provide a permanent educational assistance program to serve current and future military veterans.
   
The National Grange will further support legislation requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay the widow/widowers or estates of veterans any retro-active disability benefits they are entitled to, even if the veteran should die before the submitted claim is processed.
   
National Grange delegates further called for federal legislation to make it a federal offense to defile the grave of any military service member, regardless of where the grave is located.
   
Telecommunications Issues – Grange delegates expressed strongsupport for continuing to allow the marketplace of ideas to be subject to free market mechanisms rather than government control. The National Grange will oppose any attempt to implement the “Fairness Doctrine” or any comparable regulations, which would inhibit free speech or freedom of the press.
   
Education Concerns – The National Grange supports amending the “No Child Left Behind” Act to make it more responsive to local education concerns and budgets. Grange delegates believe that the federal government must fund educational programs appropriately so that these programs do not create an unrealistic burden on the state and local school systems.
   
National Grange delegates voted to strongly support local school officials who remove disruptive and violent students from the classroom and urged these officials to provide an alternate education to these students until the underlying cause of a student’s disruptive behavior has been corrected. They further urged reform of state and federal regulations so that schools actively addressing the problems of violent and disruptive students are not at risk of being classified as failing schools. However, the Grange will oppose the use of cash payments to students for the purpose of improving attendance, behavior, and performance.Finally Grange delegates expressed support for home schooling as a viable alternative to traditional education and called for appropriate, non-intrusive regulations in order to ensure that home schooled students receive a high quality education.
   
Grange delegates applauded the reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self Determination Act and pledged to work with Congress and the new Administration on a long-term solution for funding for rural forest counties and schools.
   
Law Enforcement, Public Safety and Homeland Security – The delegates took note that the nation’s rural law enforcement agencies face the challenge of dealing with crimes as diverse and far reaching as domestic, environmental, and animal rights terrorism. Additionally, corporate and consumer fraud, as well as Internet crimes, affect rural communities. They spoke out to encourage new strategies to deal with the rural methamphetamine problem. The Internet has made it easier for child predators to target children in rural communities. The Grange supports maximum penalties for those convicted in child predator cases. The Grange supports victim advocacy programs in rural communities, many of which are ill prepared to address complex issues such as domestic violence and the rights of victims of violent crimes.
   
With the pervasive news coverage of violent crimes, the delegates expressed concerns that criminals gain celebrity status for their crimes. The Grange will urge news media to continue to report crimes but in a way that will not give criminals credibility and celebrity status.

National Grange delegates also called for enactment of a Silver Alert Program for elderly individuals that have been reported missing and/or have wandered away from a safe environment that wouldbe administered in the same manner as the current Amber Alert system.
   
Food and Pharmaceutical Safety – In response to recent and continued reports of contaminated food and pharmaceutical products making their way on to the market, the National Grange will urge the new Administration and Congress to conduct a strategic reorganization of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) focusing on regulating and policing the quality and safety of foods and drugs for human consumption. Grange delegates believe that other FDA regulatory responsibilities over such products as animal pharmaceuticals, non-pharmaceutical medical devices, etc. should be reassigned to other more appropriate government agencies such as Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security. Grange delegates also support immediate legislation to require the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to jointly deal with intentional or unintentional food contamination incidents to quickly identify the source of contamination and promptly alert consumers.
   
The National Grange will support the new regulation for packaging of prescription medications so different strengths of the same type of prescription medicine are intuitively recognizable as different from each other.
   
The National Grange will support passage of legislation requiring all food and beverage manufacturers to list on the standardized nutrition label the amount of caffeine in their products.
   
Health Issues – With the cost of health care coverage and prescription drugs on the rise, Grange delegates advocated new policies to assure affordable health insurance for all Americans.
   
In conjunction with expansion of health insurance coverage, Grange delegates called for equitable billing requirements and reimbursements for medical, dental, and alternative health care treatments by all insurance providers, public and private.
   
The delegates expressed their concern over the availability of prescription medications over the Internet and called for efforts to educate and proactively protect the public from dangerous and fraudulent Internet prescription drug sales practices, including marketing practices from “foreign” pharmacies.
   
Grange delegates also expressed support for a cap on malpractice suits to help reduce the cost of health care and make it possible for physicians, especially those in rural areas, to continue practicing medicine.
   
Recognizing the special concerns of the hearing impaired, the Grange delegates voted to support a new $500 tax credit on the federal income tax per hearing aid available once every 5 years.
   
Financial Crisis – National Grange delegates urged government officials to carefully examine the firms that are being bailed out so that they are not rewarding greed, poor business practices and corruption. They strongly urged the federal government to limit the amounts of benefits in the form of “golden parachutes” to executives of companies that receive bailouts. They supported instituting criminal investigation and prosecution of persons and entities that led to the collapse of U.S. financial institutions. However, they expressed opposition to the direct government takeover of private businesses and skepticism as to the scope of authority granted to a select few individual government officials addressing the financial crisis. Grange delegates expressed the concern that no government official should be given unlimited power, especially a non-elected one. All legislation and decisions of this magnitude should be carefully studied through a hearing process, the Grange delegates decided.
   
With the looming possibilities of large scale personal bankruptcies, Grange delegates urged lawmakers to regulate credit card issuers, to make terms in easier to understand language and in large print on credit card applications and agreements, and legislatively restrict interest rates to not more than five percent above the prime lending interest rate.
   
Immigration – The National Grange urged Congress to make reform of immigration laws a priority. Grange delegates called on the federal government to increase border security to stem the tide of illegal immigration, drug trafficking and the potential for foreign terrorist attack. Streamlining the process for legal immigration, thus allowing employers in agriculture and other business sectors to secure workers, should be a national priority. The Grange urges federal authorities to make tools checking the authenticity of immigrant worker documents more available to employers. However, Grange delegates believe that those employers who knowingly hire illegal workers should be punished and required to pay all associated medical care costs of those illegal National Grange delegates also asked that when streamlining the immigration process, those here illegally, regardless of nationality, should not be given amnesty or given an advantage over those immigrating by proper channels.
   
Transportation Concerns – To address the problem of short-line railroad abandonment, the Grange delegates called forpublic ownership of vital short-line rail transportation corridors and facilities that benefit farmers and farm communities.
   
The Grange delegates also voted to endorse legislation creating an “Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights” providing passengers aboard any commercial flight that has been delayed from takeoff for more than one hour with electricity for fresh air and lights, adequate food and drinking water, and working toilets at the expense of the airline.
   
National Grange delegates voted to oppose the establishment of a national speed limit as well as oppose commissioning any study to determine an “optimal” speed limit as a way of reducing our dependence on foreign energy. However, in response to concerns about saving energy the delegates favor better options that include: 1) greater use of public transportation; 2) promotion of car pooling; 3) better enforcements of current speed limits; 4) promotion of alternative fuel development; and 5) further develop fuel-efficient vehicles, such as high-efficiency diesel passenger car engines, that are now widely available in other countries.
   
Taxation and Fiscal Policy Concerns – Grange delegates reiterated support for taxation policies that levy both personal and business taxes based on ability to pay. The Grange supports a graduated income tax because we believe that most citizens have a greater understanding and respect for government when they have a part in providing revenue for general government programs. However, Grange delegates affirmed that taxes should not be punitive or excessive on any members of society or class of businesses. Grange delegates support continuation beyond 2009 of the federal income tax deduction for state and local sales taxes in states that do not have a state income tax.
   
Grange delegates expressed their belief that government budgets should be balanced. The delegates recognize that there are times or circumstances to support deficit spending and the creation of debt, but that must be the result of a careful evaluation of the need and what will be the cost to future generations.

 
 
 

 
     
     
       
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