Thursday, January 28, 2010

National Cattlemen

I am attending the National Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the Cattleman's Beef Board, the BCBA Trade Show, the American National Cattlewomen, the National Cattlemen's Foundation, and CattleFax all have meetings this week.

I am very pleased that the leaders of these organizations are all speaking of unity. Not just within the beef industry but within agriculture. Just as the Grange has been speaking of unity within agriculture for many years, it is great to hear other organizations articulating the goal of working together.

Lucinda Williams, Chairman, Cattlemen's Beef Board spoke about the three challenges she sees facing the beef industry and agriculture.

First, the reality of the knowledge of our customers must be faced. The average American is 3 generations removed from the farm according to Williams. Our challenge is to educate them about the realities of farm life, practices, and our positive interaction with the environment.

Second, our opposition has abundant resources. The huge amounts of money that many organizations raise creates a challenge for all in the Ag and Natural Resource community as we can not compete on a dollar for dollar basis.

Third, we are working with a media that is friendly towards anti-meat and anti-Ag organizations.

These three points of Williams are points that the Grange agrees with and many rural and farm based organizations have been speaking about.

It is a pleasure to see the energy level of the members of the Beef organization as high as ever. My experiences with them goes back to when I was the President of the Oregon State Grange and worked closely with the Oregon Cattlemen's Assoc. They earned my respect then and the current leadership at the National level continues that tradition.

I am looking forward to the next two days, meeting new friends, and making connections that will help both the beef industry, their organizations and members, and the Grange and our membership. In fact, I encourage all Grange members that are in the beef industry to check these folks out and consider joining them.

The Grange is not a competitor with these organizations, we are allies and the more members we share, and the more we talk the greater the unity we will create. In today's world, unity is strength. I will end with an invitation to the families that make their living in the beef industry, check out the Grange and find out what we will add to your life when you become part of our organization.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hiding Taxes

I found a new tax in Washington DC. When I bought my lunch the person running the cash register asked me if I wanted a bag. It seemed like a silly question to me as I had a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a drink and it was to go, so I said yes. As I paid my bill, I saw a posted sign that notified me that bags now cost 5 cents due to a new District of Columbia law that became effective January 1.

I have now done some research and found that DC now requires all businesses that sell food or alcohol to charge five cents for a plastic bag. Not only does it require payment, but the bag must be made from #2 or #4 polyethylene and the bags must be printed with a phrase that encourages recycling (such as “Please recycle this bag.”) Paper bags must contain a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content and have the printed message also.

The business gets to keep 1 cent unless they offer a rebate for customers providing their own bag and then they get to keep 2 cents.

The 3 to 4 cents left of this new tax will go to the new Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund which will be administered by the District Department of the Environment (DDOE). They have announced that they plan to use it to clean and protect the Anacostia and other local waterways, conduct public education campaigns about the impact of trash on the District’s environmental health, and continue to provide reusable carryout bags to District residents.

Of course as with most government mandated programs, there are some bags that will be banned and other bags from certain businesses that are exempt from this tax.

The real question is not how this impacts the District of Columbia, but why is this a standard way of raising revenue for many cities, counties, and states? Hiding taxes for causes in fees that people don't perceive of as taxes doesn't promote support. The Grange believes in good stewardship of our environment. We would support many efforts to clean up rivers, reduce trash and litter, or even to educate people about their options. However, government often forgets that there are multiple ways to get the message out and to create effective solutions.

Especially in tough economic times, just charging more for taxes and letting a government agency address the topic doesn't seem prudent. Did the city really evaluate their priorities and find nothing of less importance to discontinue? Did they really find that this issue was of such critical importance that a new tax needed to be created?

I know it is only a nickel. If you buy one bag a week it is only $2.60 of which the government will get about $2.00 of. The question I have for those who ask, "why complain about a nickel?" How many nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars are already being used for worthwhile causes with taxes that are hidden? When I pay my income tax I know how much it is. When I pay my property tax bill, I know who gets every part of it. When I buy an item and there is a sales tax, it is there for me to see. The problem is that government officials realize that people don't want to pay more taxes so they are hiding them in plain sight as user fees, bag fees, or have them included within the price of something we purchase.

This D.C. five-cent bag fee will have no impact on most Grange members. The question for each member is how much money do you spend each year without realizing it is a tax from your government and which is often dedicated for some specific purpose? Do you feel that you are paying your fair share? Is your money being spent wisely and for important services? Are you going to bring even one issue to your Grange this year?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Conference in Vermont

I sat through the meetings at the Northeast Leaders conference in Vermont this past weekend. The unofficial theme of the day appears to be youth and growth. Why would a group of Grange leaders be talking about young people and Grange growth?

It is because these two topics are intertwined and work on either issue often leads to improvement in the other. Youth are at the point in life where they are learning and growing every day. They absorb new information like a sponge and most are open to trying almost anything that looks like an opportunity. These traits that young people possess are the same traits that we are teaching members to use so that they can attract new members and to grow their Grange.

Young people are looking for opportunities to learn new skills. They want to know how to run a meeting, how to shepherd an issue through the process to create a change, or how to influence others. Building a team to accomplish big tasks, setting large goals, or picking a project that impacts communities is daunting for all age groups, but youth don’t know what they can’t do and often jump at that opportunity.
In addition, most young people want to be thought of as adults. They want to be taken seriously by the older folks and be considered equals. In our organization we give 14-year old members the right to be adults and we give them responsibility and authority as members.

This group is an important part of the Grange as they bring energy and enthusiasm to our organization. As part of a Grange team they add an important ingredient to the mix of experience and knowledge that our long-time members bring.

That brings us right to the topic of Grange growth. Our members are searching for tools that will teach them how to attract new members to join and how to get members to step up as new leaders. State Grange leaders are looking for communities that need a Grange either with a new Grange or with a reorganized former Grange. All of these create growth in our Grange.

The way we are going to be successful is by working together and forming teams to accomplish the goals and tasks that face us. The more young people that we get involved on our teams, the more diverse and talent the teams will become. Success is a direct result of members working together and not worrying about who gets the credit. We need to reinforce the understanding that that credit is shared by all and success is the real reward.

I am so energized by what I am hearing from the members of the Northeast region. It appears that members and leaders are all focused on the same basic premise of involving youth and creating Grange growth. While each state has its own identity and methods, they have unity of focus and purpose.

Conferences and meetings give each member the chance to pick up some new energy and excitement while they learn a few new ideas that involve young people in their Grange and how to create Grange growth in their own Community Grange.

I hope you get the opportunity to attend an exciting Grange conference in your area. Focus on young people and Grange growth and 2010 will be a great year!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Last Sunday I did an installation of officers at my Grange. Listening to the comments and looking at the turn out, it is apparent to me that many members have forgotten why we do an installation.

First and foremost, installation is to remind the officers of the importance of the position they have been elected to serve in. For a new officer it gives them the opportunity to hear what the formal duties of their office are. For someone who has been re-elected a number of times, it is a reminder of what that officer needs to be doing.

There are several other reasons that may be easy to overlook, but are truly important.

While each officer is installed as an individual, the ceremony is for the entire group of officers. It is a team event, no officer is too important to have their own ceremony, no officer is so unimportant that we skip them. It is a reminder that as Grange members and officers we are interdependent and if we are going to achieve success, it is done together. A Grange that treats certain officers as important and ignores others, does so at their own peril. We elect an officer team to share the burdens and challenges of leadership among a group of members.

The installation ceremony is a public ceremony and we should be inviting non-members to come and witness the pride we have for the organization and for those we elect as our leaders. It is an opportunity to share some of our history, our principles and values, and the spirit of fraternity. For us it is a reminder of these things that we may take for granted.

The members should view the ceremony as an opportunity to get together and celebrate. That celebration should be one of achievement for those officers who have the chance to welcome in their successors. It should be a celebration for new officers as they get to to grow, learn, and become better leaders as they lead the Grange forward. Most importantly, those members who are not officers can join in celebrating a new Grange year as marked by new officers.

We now have two installation ceremonies that can be used. Regardless of which you choose, perform the installation with pride and have fun doing it. The officers will appreciate a smile from the installing officer and the serious duties of each office will not be diminished by all enjoying the brief presentation when done to the best of our abilities.

Don't worry about perfection, worry about the meaning of the words. Review the ceremony in the Manual and reflect on the opportunities it offers you Grange. Use the Installation of Officers ceremony as a positive opportunity to renew your excitement and energy for the Grange and your commitment to being part of the Grange team.