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National Grange News
National Grange Master Visits Lancaster Farming, PA

By Chris Torres, Staff Writer (Lancaster Farming 4/2/10)

  APRIL 2, 2010 --

The dairy crisis. Animal welfare. Trade.

These are some of the biggest issues impacting agriculture today.

But at a meeting of the Kutztown Grange Monday with National Grange Master (president) Ed Luttrell, one topic dominated all others: the economy.

Luttrell, who is on a national tour of state Granges, stopped by Lancaster Farming Tuesday for a sit-down and tour of the newspaper's facilities.

It was a brief stop on a whirlwind tour of the state.

Along with Kutztown, other stops included the Eagle Grange in Lycoming County, where the focus was the proposed Interstate 80 tolling and the Mount. Nebo Grange in Allegheny County, where Marcellus Shale drilling was the focus.

The meeting in Kutztown, not surprisingly, focused on dairy issues, with Luttrell predicting any changes to how milk is priced would have to wait until the 2012 Farm Bill.

But the recent health care reform legislation, he said, is worrisome to his already anxious membership, who fear the cost of the bill and the economy as a whole.

"Economics is the issue in this country right now," Luttrell said. "Where is the future of the country going if we are spending our grandchildren's money? That's the issue right now."

Luttrell was first elected to his post in 2007 and was re-elected in November to another two-year term.

He spends around one week each month in the organization's offices in Washington. It's a place, he said, that has become disconnected with issues and people outside of the "beltway."

And it puts agriculture in a difficult place, he said, because segments of the industry are fragmented and regularly lobby against each other on various issues.

"The ag community needs to be communicating," he said. "Ag is too small to fight amongst ourselves. Our enemies will pull us apart."

Luttrell is a native of Oregon, where his claim to farming, at least for now, is six small apple trees and a woodlot.

He is only the second member west of Nebraska to be elected Master (president) of the National Grange in the organization's 143 year history.

Along with issues impacting agriculture, Luttrell has had to spend time defending his organization's name.

Several companies, including a national poultry company, have attempted to register and trademark "Grange" for their own use. The company attempted to trademark Grange for a new line of chicken products it wanted to sell.

The National Grange fought back and this past fall, the poultry company abandoned its plans to trademark the name. "We're kind of surprised that so many companies want to use our name and they don't want to pay us," he said. "It's been a constant drain on our resources."

His focus since being elected Master has been strengthening the bond between people at the national and state levels of the Grange.

Most of the time away from his Washington headquarters is spent traveling the country, talking to Grange members in the 36 states where local Granges exist.

He said the feedback from members on his tour has been positive, with many curious about the organization's view of the future.

In Pennsylvania, three new chapters have started within the last four years.

Luttrell is excited about where the Grange is going. A lot of younger people, he said, are excited about getting involved and social networking sites have made it easier to stay connected.

"We're very open. We're very welcoming to these people," he said. "People are underestimating us. We have a lot of things happening right now."



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