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Chapter 7
Evolution of Grange Legislative Program and Positions

For the Welfare of All

With nearly 100 years of non-partisan national legislative accomplishments behind it, the Grange starts its second century endorsing, urging, and supporting every well-conceived proposition for the educational, social, and economic betterment of agricultural people, as well as for the welfare of all U.S. citizens.

Not organized originally for political reasons, or to become a powerful legislative force, these aims not being in the minds of the Founders 100 years ago, nevertheless the Grange has become one of the most potent influences in the nation's capital, and commands the attention of administrators and others prominent in the Executive branch of government, as well as of lawmakers both in Congress and in state capitals.

The national headquarters of the Grange in Washington utilizes a legislative representative in addition to a legislative counsel and an associate legislative counsel, all working under the direction of the National Master who likewise gives a great deal of his personal attention to legislative matters. Thus these four, together with the national transportation counsel in the Grange office, become the eyes and ears of Grange membership and of rural and suburban Americans. It has been heartening and encouraging in recent years to observe the continuing improvement in response from Grange leaders all across the country to requests from their national office to make their views known with reference to official Grange policy.

Meanwhile, these five experienced, well-informed official spokesmen, aided by other staff associates, are advocates or exponents of Grange policy and position. They give careful scrutiny to all legislative proposals with national or international implications which may have an effect on the lives and fortunes of the rural citizens of the country. The Grange Master and the special representatives speak up-for-or against-as need be and as may be directed by the delegate body, which has acted. in annual meeting to spell out what the Grange position should be.

First appointed in 1878, a National Grange Legislative Committee became the pioneering, organized effort to properly represent the rural interests of the country.. Prior to that, actions of the Founders and of the first National Masters to represent Grange interests were somewhat spasmodic. Grange Historian Charles M. Gardner's studies indicated that Grange influence was thrown only for or against specific measures pending in Congress, in which agricultural interests were involved. He continued:

Extensive as Kelley's dream of future Grange usefulness may have been, it is extremely doubtful whether he ever visualized how powerful a legislative force the organization was destined to become. To the Founders, the primary objective was a more satisfying rural life and a happier farm home.

To Grange leaders over the past 25 years, it has become increasingly evident that the Grange must assume a major responsibility for providing a national balance in public affairs by giving to rural Americans and farmers the most effective voice and advocacy that it can possibly give to balance increasingly big business, big labor, and big government. But true balance there must be. Grange members can be proud of the efforts of their organization toward achieving this balance. The Grange leaders readily admit that much remains to be done-especially in the field of building a sound public opinion through more effective information.

What was said 50 years ago, at the Golden jubilee celebration of the National Grange, can be said with even greater force today, as the record of Grange legislative accomplishment is outstanding, and the aims and objectives continue in the same vein:

No well-informed person would claim that the Grange is wholly responsible for all of these agricultural achievements, but that it has been an important, and, in many instances, the dominating factor in bringing them about; no one but the uninformed will deny. Upon all movements for rural betterment, the Grange, through its perfect and well-disciplined machinery, has been a leader in creating that public opinion which has influenced Congress, legislators and courts, and has shaken to its foundations the old, circumscribed, aristocratic idea of education and broadened our social and economic views ....

It was a widespread opinion in the early years of the Grange movement that the farmers were not represented in our law-making bodies as they should be and that their interests were neglected or discriminated against. The Grange has done what it could without breaking into partisan politics to stem the tide that has been setting against the farmers as an important factor in our governing citizenship ....
Today, as it was in 1919 when Legislative Headquarters were first opened in Washington, D.C., the sound policy of the Grange has been to present its viewpoints and arguments for or against legislative proposals to Committees of Congress and to the White House and Executive Departments on a high plane. The activity includes no "lobby"-Grange action is through conferences with members of Congress in committee rooms or offices. Very often, Grange viewpoints are invited, with the National Master or his staff meeting with legislators at their request to provide first-hand information.

While other farm and commodity groups in Washington are very active and possess extensive influence, it is the general opinion that the cause of the real "dirt farmer" and "rural life" is most truly represented by the Grange.

How Grange Policy Is Determined

One important reason is that thousands of Grange members literally meet thousands of times annually and engage in extensive discussion on legislative matters to determine what Grange policy should be, and what they will do as citizens and voters to back the Grange legislative program.

Before effective action can be taken in regard to any matter, the sentiment of Grange members must be crystallized, their differences reconciled, and support or opposition to a pending legislative matter must be decided. Often, through this process, legislative proposals themselves are generated.

The unique machinery of the Grange is well-adapted to this. Views expressed and resolutions adopted by Subordinate and Pomona Granges are further considered by the State Granges, and from there sent for action to the National Grange annual meeting.

At these annual sessions, literally hundreds of resolutions on important legislative items are discussed before the policy of the Grange is finally determined. These are serious and some might say, tedious sessions, but the results have proved their value.

In these published words of a State Master describing what happened at a recent session is dramatic proof of the thoroughness of Grange procedure:

The National Grange session was definitely not a play session. More than 400 resolutions were considered covering many areas not all directly connected with the farm, but covering a wide range of things important to people throughout not only this nation, but the entire world.

One could not help but notice the earnest dedication of the delegates as they often worked in committees far into the night drafting resolutions to be considered by the entire delegate body. Because of the widespread area represented, several issues were hotly contested.

The Grange thus provides each member with a voice-an opportunity starting in 'the Subordinate unit to express his beliefs and viewpoints knowing full well that his worthy ideas and recommendations may reach, through Grange channels to the highest levels of the Grange and subsequently to government, with far-reaching effects on millions of U.S. citizens, as well as peoples abroad.

The Granger Laws and Farm Credit

Grange histories reveal an amazing collection of beneficial legislative achievements from which the entire population of the country-urban and rural-has profited. Many of the accomplishments were Grange-originated; others succeeded through strong Grange backing and support.

Only a few can be mentioned here due to space limitations-and the record is constantly being added to as daily legislative efforts succeed.

Outstanding among accomplishments of the Patrons of Husbandry were the actions that led to the evolution of the Granger Laws. Beginning in the 1870's, this Grange accomplishment is described in detail in Chapter 6, "The Granger Laws-Their Significance." This Granger Movement itself changed the Constitution of the United States, as was pointed out in the February, 1964, issue of American Heritage:

Not a literal change involving amendments, it was on the contrary, a more important one in that for the first time in the history of the world, the courts of the United States, including the Supreme Court,. recognized officially that the public does have a proper interest in the policy and decisions of big business.

Another far-reaching legislative accomplishment is in the field of farm credit. Actually the Grange developed the original Farm Credit Act and played a prominent role in the legislation that followed it for a number of years and which gave farmers control and ownership of what is now the widespread farm credit system.

It was in 1913 that National Master Oliver Wilson was the first to outline a system that "should make it easy and safe for a farmer to borrow money to buy or improve his land or the equivalent to operate same." He significantly added, "Any credit system to be safe for the people must be either directed, controlled or operated by the Government." When the first Federal Farm Loan Act was passed in 1916, it was substantially in the form suggested and advocated by the Grange. Following later was the "Land Mortgage System" and, based upon Grange recommendations, the setting up in 1933 by President Roosevelt of the Farm Credit Administration. All of this has probably done as much economically for farm people as any single group of achievements, farmers obtaining through these developments an equal opportunity for credit on fair terms. Today, the cooperative farm credit system is the envy of the world in terms of its ownership by agricultural people and the service it performs for them.

Outstanding Accomplishments in Many Other Areas

Among other legislative accomplishments of the Grange are the following:

  • Since 1867 it has been a "mainstay" for rural roads . . . a dominant force in passing legislation providing for Interstate Highway Programs now under way.

  • Fostered creation of the Extension Service . . . and has consistently supported appropriations necessary to meet expanded needs of the Service.

  • Fathered legislation creating the Vo-Ag program-and consistently supported advancement of the work since it was established in 1916.

  • Initiated legislation which removed the federal tax on fuel for "on-the-farm" use-saving farmers some $100 million annually.

    Won its fight to preserve trip leasing privileges in agricultural trucking, saving rural people $200 million a year.

  • Was solely responsible for initiation of Rural Free Delivery and our Parcel Post System.

  • Led the fight that gave Cabinet status to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and has been a stalwart supporter ever since.

  • Laid the original groundwork for and actually built over the years farmer cooperatives, which it strongly supports today.

  • Is noted far and wide for its vigilant efforts to curb and control monopolies, and thereby extend opportunities to more and more Americans.

  • Sponsored legislation which created the Rural Electrification Administration and the rural telephone program, and takes a prime interest every year in adequate appropriations for these programs.

  • Secured initial legislation establishing our system of agriculture experiment stations and has since helped Congress guide and support an adequate program of research.

  • Championed the Soil Conservation Service, Farmers Home Administration, Crop Insurance Program, Upstream Small Watershed Program, School Lunch and Milk Program, Great Plains Program, Rural Area Development, Food for Peace Programs, now frequently taken for granted.

  • Was the dominant force in bringing Social Security to farmers and other self employed persons.

  • Has consistently promoted sound money and tax policies.

  • Played a paramount and continuing role in the formation and operation of United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization and of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers.

  • Worked aggressively and effectively for expansion of markets for food and fiber, both at home and abroad.

  • Has repeatedly pushed-with success-for tariff and trade barrier reforms.

  • Initiated the equality of income, or parity concept for measuring agricultural welfare-(and justice)-and has consistently supported modifications necessary to modernize the formula.

Groundwork for the Future

The National Master in his address at both the 1964 and 1965 annual sessions, from his vantage point of reviewing today's complex national and international situation, has laid the groundwork for legislative accomplishments leading into the Grange's second century. He has said:

We must recognize that the problems of relationships among the people within the United States are now being substantially influenced and, indeed, in many cases magnified by the hopes and the aspirations-by the technical, social, economic and political developments around this vast but rapidly shrinking globe upon which we live, and by the very substantial evolution in transportation, communication, and commercial relations among peoples and nations.

Even as the Grange in its beginning was peculiarly well designed and equipped to meet the problems of nine decades ago, so must we now be sure, that the Order of Patrons of Husbandry is equally capable of meeting and dealing with the problems, as we round out the Grange's first century, as we enter into a new and broader series of effective, constructive and intelligent adjustments, made necessary by new and rapidly developing interrelationships and interdependence with increasing, ri6mbers of people throughout the entire world.

Is it now crystal clear, from the experiences within the lifetime of many of us today, that we cannot isolate ourselves from the military and political problems o f the rest o f the world-

Does it not their logically follow that we must recognize the impossibility of insulating ourselves from the food and agricultural, health, and nutritional, as well as economic and social problems therein?

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