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National Grange News
National Grange introduces 2008 Blueprint for Rural America
  APRIL 2008 -- National Grange has developed a nine-point program to revitalize rural America and assure U.S. agricultural prosperity. This blueprint is the basis for the National Grange legislative program. For more information on the Blueprint for Rural America 2008, visit www.nationalgrange.org.

1. Build a Solid Foundation of Prosperity for America’s Family Farmers and Ranchers
America’s family farmers and ranchers are a highly diverse and constantly evolving group of entrepreneurs who greatly differ in a variety of ways. Farm programs must ensure that family farming will be profitable and that the productive resources of today’s family farmers will be transferred to a new generation of farmers and rural entrepreneurs. Farm programs should reward innovative practices, encourage sound conservation techniques, preserve prime agricultural land, ensure compliance with existing international trade agreements, respond quickly to natural disasters, and facilitate the introduction of cost saving and environmentally beneficial new technologies for all segments of the agriculture sector.

2. Protect Private Property Rights by Reforming Eminent Domain Authority
Property rights are central to our liberty and our prosperity. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, abuse of eminent domain solely for private economic benefit is a threat to the civil rights of all private property owners, including rural landowners. Americans should never have to fear their government arbitrarily taking their homes, farms, or businesses through the eminent domain process, forcing rural property owners from their land in order to develop rural land into industrial or commercial property.

3. Expand Telecommunications Services in Rural Areas
Universal access to affordable, reliable, and competitive telecommunications technologies must be available to rural communities at affordable costs. Advanced telecommunications technologies and services are converging. Therefore, national, state, and local laws that govern these technologies should be reformed to remove the regulatory uncertainty that has deterred advanced telecommunications investment in rural America. Expanding access to advanced telecommunications technologies and services in rural areas will spark the creation of new service providers, new innovations, and new applications that will become more affordable to rural communities.

4. Achieve Energy Security for Rural America
Imported energy and high prices threaten our national security. Renewable energy from our nation’s farms, along with better utilization of traditional domestic energy sources and enhanced energy conservation, is the key to reducing our dependence on imported energy. However, existing national energy policies often contradict this effective three-pronged strategy. Biofuel and renewable energy production from our nation’s farms and rural communities is grossly underutilized. High natural gas prices have crippled our nation’s fertilizer and chemical production capacity. Proven reserves of domestic energy cannot be developed because of unscientific, ecological prejudices, while other environmentally marginal policies increase energy costs without benefits.

5. Improve the Quality and Availability of Rural Health Care
Rural citizens need 100% tax deductions for health insurance and long-term care insurance costs, for medical savings accounts, and for medical flexible spending accounts. They need competitive priced health insurance choices such as nationwide association sponsored health plans and Medicare Advantage. Yet health insurance has no value if there are no health care providers in rural areas. Rural health care providers face regulatory barriers when they seek equitable reimbursement for treatments provided under Medicare and Medicaid.

6. Promote Practical and Effective Immigration Reform
The tide of illegal immigration in our nation increases daily and, along with it, the burdens on our nation. At the same time, the need for legal guest workers to meet unfulfilled labor needs in agriculture and other sectors is critical. Little constructive progress has been made to secure our nation’s borders or to provide for an orderly flow of legal guest workers. The primary responsibility to secure our borders, protect our sovereignty and assure the orderly supply of legal guest workers rests with the government at all levels. Requiring private employers to be responsible for enforcement of federal immigration law is vigilantism that places at risk the civil rights of both foreign guest workers and U.S. citizens. Requiring taxpayers to finance government services for undocumented individuals is contrary to the principal of democratic accountability and popular sovereignty.

7. Support Transportation Improvements that Protect the Freedom of Mobility
Freedom of mobility is vital to rural life. Transportation is the lifeblood of our nation’s economy. Federal transportation investments promote healthy economic growth. However, our highways, railroads, airports, and waterways are deteriorating from failure to support and maintain transportation infrastructure. These services are critical to maintaining a healthy rural and small town economy.

8. Strengthen Civic Participation in Our Society
The challenges of September 11 th continue to test the durability of our liberties and our duties of civic participation. Common frames of reference, such as language, expressions of faith, and patriotism, are fundamental prerequisites for individual liberties and vibrant civic participation. These shared references reinforce our national traditions of religious and social tolerance. Strengthening civic participation in our society is the most effective means to guarantee our liberties and maintain our way of life.

9. Enhance Public Safety and Homeland Security in Rural Areas
Grange members cherish living in communities free of crime and fear. Public safety in rural communities, including Homeland Security,is a top national priority. Bio-terrorism that could destroy the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of family farmers and ranchers is a real threat via the importation or domestic transportation of invasive pests and diseases. Consumers are at risk from imported food and manufactured products that often fail to face the same strict scrutiny that domestically produced products face. Traditional crime is also increasingly making its way to our rural communities.


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