Thursday, February 24, 2011

Legislators Who Fail Us

It has been frustrating reading the headlines and listening to the talking heads about the current situation in Wisconsin. Last time I checked, we elected people to represent us at different levels of government. We do not elect parties to represent us.

The actions of some legislators in Wisconsin in leaving the state to block legislation are not anything new, but it still reeks of partisanship shenanigans. Texas and Oregon have had this same situation in years past and in both cases, those politicians put their party before their duty.

I believe that we elect people to go to our state capitols and fight for their constituents and the State as a whole. Regardless of their party affiliation, we expect them to be there and be engaged in the debate and discussions on the issues of the day and then to cast a thoughtful and considered vote.

It would be a form of insanity to think that those elected officials will always agree, but to run and hide instead of participating in the democratic process is, at the least, dereliction of their duty. There is no crime in losing a vote, nor in failing to sway the opinion of the majority. The crime is in trying to win through absence. The reason for elections is to ensure the will of the people has a voice. When elected officials don’t show up for work, their constituencies are silenced.

The issues before the elected officials of Wisconsin deserve debate and discussion by all. The voters of Wisconsin do not deserve the spectacle that is currently being played out by those who are ducking their responsibilities by leaving their state.

I would suggest that any elected official who ducks their duty, no longer deserves the support of any voter. After all, if you don’t show up for work in any other job, you get fired.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Washington's Birthday

I occasionally get irritated with President's Day because it takes away from Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays. George Washington was one of America's two greatest presidents in my opinion.

The reasons for my view are simple. First he never lost sight of who he was and what he wanted. He viewed himself as a farmer, every moment he was home he was working to make his farm more productive, and no matter what else happened in his life he saw himself as a farmer. That is staying true to yourself!

The second reason is that he never quit. When you read biographies of the man, you see a tremendous strength of character. No matter how bad things were going, he did not quit, he gave others courage and hope. He had faith in what he was doing at all times.

The last reason is that when it was time, he stepped down. The two big times that he stepped down, were when he left the army after achieving victory in the revolutionary war and the other was stepping down after two terms as President. I believe that this shows his character in such a positive way. When he had accomplished the tasks before him, he chose to step down rather than try to hold onto power.

Don't forget the reason we celebrate Washington's birthday is due to what he gave a young nation and the examples he set. I think the reason we have President's Day is to have a three day weekend. I'm going with Washington. Happy Birthday George!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cooperative Export Programs on the Chopping Block

I believe the next couple of years are going to see substantial efforts to reduce Federal programs. Many of these proposed cuts the Grange will support or not outwardly oppose. After all, we do understand the need to reduce spending and get our national finances under control.

However, there will be proposed cuts that we will fight against. The Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program are two of those programs on the block today. The reason we oppose cuts to these programs are that the programs are aimed at benefiting cooperative efforts from all corners of agriculture.

The Grange was the organization that introduced the Rochdale style of cooperative principles to the United States in a practical and lasting way. Our early members saw the need to band together in both buying and marketing cooperatives to benefit the farmer directly.

Today marketing cooperatives still benefit producers of many crops and MAP and FMD are Federal programs that allow these small co-ops to effectively market internationally, in competition with the giant corporate marketers and foreign governments.

The two primary reasons we oppose the elimination of these two programs are the loss of jobs and the loss of markets.

Thousands of jobs with American companies, both here and overseas are dependent upon our farmers being able to market their crops around the world. Programs like MAP and FMD are not give-a-ways, but allow cooperatives, trade associations, small business, and the USDA to share the costs of overseas marketing development. As an example, a study found that between 2000 and 2007, of every dollar invested in export promotion, generated $23 in net revenue to the farmer and returned $115 to the U.S. economy (U.S. Wheat Associates 2010).

Ending these two programs will also allow other countries to fill the vacuum that would be created and American farmers will most likely lose those markets. The cost and uncertainty of regaining those markets is a risk not worth the small savings. We should not repeat mistakes of the past by being penny wise and a pound foolish.

-Ed Luttrell
National Grange President

U.S. Wheat Associates. (2010). New Study Shows 23-to-One Return on Producer Wheat Export Promotion [Press release]. Retrieved from:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lincoln's Birthday

Yesterday was Lincoln's birthday. I took a bit of time to reflect on why Lincoln was one of our great presidents. To me, greatness for a president means that they made significant and lasting changes to America while dealing with the situation that existed in their world.

Most people think of Lincoln as the president who saved the union. I tend to think of two traits that set him apart and allowed him to save the union.

First he suffered more defeats than victories. From the time of his birth in Kentucky, Lincoln seldom had it easy. He lost more elections than he won, he even doubted his own presidential re-election in 1864 until the western army achieved a major victory. The word perseverance describes Lincolns actions perfectly.

It is the way he dealt with defeat that showed his strength. He would pray and then start over the next day. During the war he kept pushing and evaluating his generals until he found the combination of leadership that gave the North the victory. No matter how bad the defeat, Lincoln believed that tomorrow would give him success and he would then work hard to achieve it.

Second he never strayed from his view of what was right. Even during the darkest days of the Civil War, he never wavered from his view that the Union must be preserved. He never compromised his principles nor forgot to keep his eyes on his goals. Even while consumed with the Civil war, he found time to advocate for other issues that he saw as critical. While Grant drove the gold spike in the transcontinental railroad, Lincoln signed the enabling legislation.

I look at the Grange and see Lincoln's spirit every day. In spite of being declared dead, weak, and not relevant many times over the past 140 years, the Grange continues to grow and serve thousands of communities across the country. The principles and goals of our organization remain the same as when our early members wrote them into our declaration of purposes and rules. While many amendments have been made to our governing documents, we've never lost sight of why we exist as an organization and what we are to be doing.

Lincoln as a man and president should inspire every American. In my view, he and Washington stand together as our greatest presidents.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ESA vs Mother Nature

In 1990 Northern Spotted owls were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Since that time we have likely spent billions, and sacrificed jobs and communities to saving the Spotted owl. We now harvest only 5% of the amount of timber in Oregon that was harvested in 1988, yet the Spotted owl continues to decline in numbers by about 3% per year.

Now there is a proposal to shoot Barred owls as biologists have realized that the aggressive Barred owl not only drives out Spotted owls, but can interbreed with them. Science indicates that the two types of owl are cousins, probably descending from the same species from around the time of the last ice age.

While species such as eagles and wolves have recovered with the help of the ESA, the Spotted owl hasn't. The impact of regulations and restrictions to protect the Spotted owl have devastated many rural communities throughout the Pacific Northwest and northern California due to job losses as the timber industry has been forced into decline.

Invasive species can be dealt with to protect native species, but the owls are both native. Which owl is more worthy of protection? Can we change the rules that nature plays by?

Maybe the ESA should take into account the normal function of "Mother Nature." Some species eat whatever seems fit to eat and others are picky eaters. Some sub-species are a bit picky about their mates, while others are not. Those that are picky about eating or mating often find that they have one strike against them. Those that end up with several strikes will lose out against other species that don't share those disadvantages.

Will a ten to twenty percent reduction of the Barred owl population be enough? How much will it cost to kill that many Barred owls? I certainly don't advocate that we hurry the Spotted owl along, but maybe we ought to consider what nature is doing about them and why it is happening.

Discussions in Grange halls across the Pacific Northwest this year will include the topic of owls, the ESA, and Mother Nature. All of our efforts haven't helped the Spotted owl yet, I hope we don't think more of the same will give us different results.

The ESA vs Mother Nature, I'm betting on Mother Nature.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Small Steps to Fiscal Responsiblity

On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee announced a two year moratorium on earmarks. Last week, the House passed H.R.359 which if passed in the Senate and signed by the President would end the Presidential Campaign Fund.

Neither of these actions will make a huge difference in our Federal deficit, but they are both small steps toward the goal. Up until two years ago, we were increasing spending in small steps and if Congress starts making the small steps in the other direction regularly it will be a positive move.

I've already heard Senators and Representatives talking in opposition to these actions and they need to hear from every taxpayer. Reducing the deficit will take effort, hard choices, and discipline. If we make the question one of, "Does it do good" we will never reducing Federal spending. No matter what the spending is on, someone thinks it is important. We must remember that we cannot spend money we don't have.

I congratulate both the House and Senate for taking the first of many small steps in cutting runaway spending. I also urge every citizen to keep the pressure on Congress so that we can start taking bigger steps in the future.

The actions of thousands of Granges across the county should serve as a living example of living within your means.