Saturday, July 31, 2010

This Past Week

What a week I've had. Interviews for a new Legislative Director, staff meetings, problems in a couple of states, issues that included what we are going to do about the Postal Service proposal to reduce service, and an interesting idea to help farmers and rural people in another part of our world.

The one thing most people don't realize is that I spend at least half my time team building. Working with, training, encouraging, and supporting the members of all the different teams the National Grange has, is one of the chief duties of the Master of the National Grange. Success or failure is often based on how well that single portion of this job is done.

While I am not a "city" person, the time I spend with the staff is not only valuable, but enjoyable. I have trust and faith that your staff is not only dedicated to our organization, but committed to being a part of growing it.

Leroy Watson is going to be leaving his post in a week and a half and I will miss him greatly. He brought a keen mind and 11 years of experience as the Director to the staff and it has benefited every Master he worked under and the organization as a whole. I am also sure that he will continue to contribute in many ways to the future of our Grange, now just as an active member.

The team of staff will change this month and we have already begun to fit new people into the team. The process is the same for new employees as for new members in your own Grange. We need to make them feel welcome, make sure that they understand what we do and why, and listen to their questions and comments. We have the opportunity to learn about ourselves by listening to a new set of eyes.

Sitting at the airport, reflecting on this past week, is a pleasant moment this week. We have strengthened our staff team, we are seeking solutions to some problems challenging some of our State Master team members, and we accomplished a great deal.

Success or failure is the result of team building efforts. This week was another success for the National Grange and our organization as a whole. Hope your week was as wonderful!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Basic Economics

I just don’t quite get why so many politicians seem to be missing the common sense boat when we talk about the economy. It would be truly discouraging if it required a degree in economics to see some of the solutions.

I’ve had a checking account since I was about 16 and at an early point in life, I knew that if a person writes a check or charges a debit for more money than they have in the account, the check bounces, the debit is declined and the bank punishes you with a hefty overdraft fee. When you don’t pay a bill, someone is going to ask some tough questions. If you constantly spend more than you make, you will go bankrupt.

It is seems obvious to me that when you increase taxes, there is less money being spent to hire people by businesses. Undoubtedly there is a tax rate that will generate the maximum revenue for the government with the least negative impact on the economy and while I am not sure what it is exactly, I just have a hunch it is somewhat lower than the total bill we have today.

The bottom line is that the government as a whole doesn’t create wealth and wealth is what increases our standard of living. Without wealth generation, the ideas, services, food, fiber, and widgets that are produced, the economy just can’t grow.
It is also painfully obvious that when you increase taxes on the rich, that many people find themselves being classed as rich who really are not. Most importantly, if the amount of taxes I pay as a percentage of my income goes up, it is a tax increase. The more of my money that the government takes, the less that I can use for the things I think are important. Now don’t think that I oppose paying taxes, I just want a civil discussion on how much I should pay.

It would seem to me that there are some simple solutions to help stimulate the economy.

First stop spending more than is received in revenue. I realize that means making choices, but that is what people normally do when they run out of money.

Second stop raising taxes, especially the ones aimed at business. All they seem to do is discourage hiring. While we’re on this subject, maybe just following a bit of Grange policy and make the tax system simpler would aid the economy. If farmers, businesspeople, and the rest of the taxpayers knew the tax system was consistent and predictable it would be a lot easier to make investments that would lead to new jobs.

Third quit using taxes as a partisan position and as a wedge between voters and start talking about our nation’s financial health. After all, we are all citizens of this great nation.

I have a hunch that just these three basic ideas would keep Congress busy for a couple of years while the rest of us keep working and building the secure financial future we want for our families.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Defining Who We Are

Just two weeks ago I was in Washington, D.C. with my wife, son, and about 500 of my friends. While I was working, my wife and son Jacob visited many of the monuments and memorials and took in the sights around Washington. One of their stops was Mt. Vernon where they spent a good share of one day.

Jacob has always been interested in history and the world in general and is a well informed young man. He commented that he learned that George Washington defined himself as a farmer and he observed that histories don't mention his love of agriculture.

Washington may have been the general that kept alive the dream of independence and he may have been the first President and in the process created a working nation. But when he defined who he was, he said a farmer.

How do you define a farmer? Is he or she a person who takes risks, but is educated and experienced enough to find success? Is it a person who is willing and tough enough to work long hours when necessary.

I believe that we should embrace the picture of Washington as the proto-type of the American farmer. Someone who puts his heart, mind, and soul into growing crops, raising livestock, and today also growing fuel. Highly educated and willing to get dirty, committed to a lifestyle, their family and the community they are blessed to live in. Someone who answers the call to duty when their country needs them, and seldom is far from God.

While Washington thought of himself as a farmer, history often ignores that central part of his life in favor of the more attractive general or President. But why is his own definition of himself so often overlooked? Why are farmers in general overlooked or even ignored so often?

It is possible that American farmers are so good at their chosen occupation and so quiet about it that their silence is taken by the public as proof it isn't so tough. Maybe it is just that they are not vocal about it.

Agriculture faces many challenges today, from government regulation to attacks from anti-agriculture groups. One small things we can do is to take time to look at the initiation ceremonies of the Grange and how we use these powerful lessons to teach the critical role of agriculture and the importance of farmers.

All of us who do not make our livings via farming need to join with that small segment of our nation's population who are farmers. Together we must make sure that we define what a farmer is, not others who have no idea of what is involved in being a farmer.

The Grange is an agricultural organization and as such, continues to educate and teach what it means to be a farmer in today's America. Our membership is not made up of just farmers, but those with an interest in agriculture.

George Washington would be happy to see organizations that remember the high position that agriculture occupies and the importance of the American farmer. Would he be as happy about how many Americans define farmers?

Let's all continue working together to ensure that the we define what a farmer is!