Guest submission: Prepping to speak to legislators

This submission comes from our friends over at the Center for Rural Affairs. This is full of good tips before you head to the hill this spring to advocate for the Grange.

Time to call your legislators
By Stephanie Enloe, Center for Rural Affairs

With legislative sessions in full swing, it is vital for rural constituents to contact legislators regarding issues that affect our communities. Here are some simple tips for calling your legislators.

Before contacting your legislator, take five minutes to visit their website and learn about their party affiliation, their background, and their stances on your priority issues. This research will help you craft a message that appeals to shared values.

Next, prepare two or three talking points that outline why your legislator should support your stance. If you want to talk about renewable energy, for example, legislators might be interested in economic benefits, environmental benefits or public health benefits. It is helpful to write out your talking points ahead of time.

When you call your legislator’s office, you will likely get a staff person. It is still worthwhile to speak with staffers. Introduce yourself and tell the legislator or staffer why you are calling. Start with a personal story or value statement, then use the talking points you prepared. End with a request for your legislator to support a bill or take a stance on an issue.

Finally, remember to be confident, courteous, brief and passionate. Even if you disagree with a legislator’s position, do not resort to name-calling, swearing or threats. End by thanking your legislator so you can continue to build your relationship.

 

 

Iowa kicks off the presidential season

Ever wonder what it’s like to be from the first state to cast votes for the presidential primary season? Iowa State Granger Doug Baldwin participated tonight in one of the caucuses.

He joked as he prepared for his local caucus, he said its “exciting and (challenging) all in one being first in the nation,” because the push to the finish was intense for many of the campaigns. In the past year, he said presidential candidates and staffers have inundated the state. As he headed in to cast his vote, he said he was still deciding on who he would make his final decision, but “that is the beauty of the process here… we will get to hear from a representative from each candidate and that should help me make my final choice.”

Indications are there were record turnouts at some locations, and the results were close. There are 49 primaries to go. Grangers are preparing to head to New Hampshire to help with the presidential campaigns of their choice. Don’t forget, if you have not registered to vote, check with your state’s Department of State and register.

Life in a Presidential Campaign

Editor’s note: Thanks to past state New Hampshire State Grange Jim Tetreault for submitting this post about his experiences volunteering with a presidential campaign.

How does someone get involved in a Presidential Campaign? First it takes a passion for an individual candidate and an interest in politics. It takes a thick skin not to be offended by what your family and friends may think of that the candidate of your choice. For instance one of my favorite cousins who I am very close to thinks that my candidate is the absolute scum of the earth so I see a steady flow of attacks on face book! I don’t comment I just let him exercise his first amendment rights to free speech.

In my case the interest in politics started in the Grange, even as a youth member I was always fascinated by the Legislative Report, as I look back on it now I thought wow “old people” give those reports but in hindsight I now realize that they were people the same age as I am now! Year latter when I became Legislative Director of the New Hampshire State Grange, and having the opportunity to be mentored by Brother Leroy Watson, I figured out I was a “darn good Lobbyist” and wanted to move beyond the Lobbying world and more into the political side of the spectrum. My political life actually started by becoming a local elected official I have served as the Town Clerk and the Tax Collector for the Town of Winchester since March of 2007, I have a job that I have strived to become good at and my goal is always to make my portion of the Government work and be effective for the Tax Payers. The Political Advocacy portion of my life began as a “bribe” now the reader looks at this and thinks an elected official took a bribe? OMG! The “bribe” was actually a dinner ticker biggest fundraising dinner the State Democratic Party runs at $100 per person. At this event is when the local Democratic Committee hit me up to be their Treasurer, being the person that usually doesn’t say no to anything I took this on and it’s given me an opportunity to see Democratic Politics from the inside.

You wonder how this all relates to the Presidential campaign? Well when the Clinton Campaign was looking to set up a regional campaign Committee, they went to one of my good friends JoAnn Fenton and asked her who should be on the Committee? JoAnn listed a grouping of people and I was one of the people included! So here I site on the Monadnock Region Campaign Committee for Hillary Clinton, a candidate that I supported in 2008 and proud to support today. So what does a member of this type of committee do? Well a lot of grunt work! Canvassing homes, phone banking – you know those annoying calls you get while you’re watching “Jeopardy or the Big Bang Theory” while you’re feeling annoyed remember these are dedicated volunteers who take time out of their personal lives to work for a candidate they really believe in! So please don’t be rude to them, thank them for the call but let them know you’re not interested.

 

There are times when I am not home and people are in my house launching canvasses, having meetings, we also feedback information to the campaign from the field. Do they listen to us? Probably not! For the field operation it’s an opportunity for volunteers to feel they have someone “connected” to offer suggestions or complaints back to the campaign. We also do some serious things for campaign beyond the grunt work. We also work to accomplish campaign goals and we work as parts of the local brain trusts that helps map out the strategies to meet these goals. The Clinton Campaign is taking advantage of the expertise and knowledge of local activist who have strong roots and connections within each of those communities. On a personal note I have had the opportunity to connect with so many new people. People right in my own neighborhood, that I have waived to as they have driven or walked passed my house. I have also had the opportunity to mentor some young activist who I see great promise in for the future. Ask me and I will tell you about the two exceptional young men from Cheshire County are going be either a US Senator and member of the US House of Representatives from New Hampshire in the next ten years.

So the downside of being involved in a campaign to this extent, you’re always finding left over literature on the counters, Hillary stickers on every suit jack and coat and on the bottom of every pair of shoes. The glove box of the car is full of Hillary brochures, stickers and commit cards.

So when you are home on a Sunday afternoon watching the football game or on a Monday night watching Jeopardy think of me and my associates out in the cold knocking on doors and working the phones, working really hard to get the candidate elected we believe in. If any of this sounds interesting join us for the NH Primary Fly-In on February 5-7 in Manchester NH.

 

 

 

 

Great Plains Conference Challenges Grangers to Expand Their Horizons

Derek Snyder discusses how to prepare for a legislative meeting.

Derek Snyder discusses how to prepare for a legislative meeting.

Grangers were challenged to take a leap of faith at the 2015 Great Plains Regional Leadership/Youth Conference. Members participated in the challenge course at the Hesperus Camp, Hesperus, Colo.

Grangers had to choose one of three ways up the course to the platform about 20 feet in the air to take the zipline down the hill. Members could climb a rock wall, cargo net or up a pole with cleat hand/footholds.

“It was absolutely amazing to watch Grangers battle their fears to reach the top and then take the ‘leap of faith’ to go down the zip line,” said National Grange Youth Director Charlene Shupp Espenshade. “Other Grangers cheered members on as they tried to overcome difficulties to reach the top.”

Colorado State Grange organized this year’s conference. The event included a mix of workshops, activities and projects from the youngest junior Granger to adults. Junior Grangers worked on centerpieces for the National Grange Session Junior Breakfast.

National Grange Youth Ambassador Derek Snyder led an Apathy Not Allowed workshop

Grangers took on the challenge to ride a zip line.

Grangers took on the challenge to ride a zip line.

with Espenshade. Grangers chose to prepare a key request in support of rural broadband – showing how broadband access could improve education opportunities, business growth and access to critical medical care. They presented their viewpoint to “Congressman Snyder” who eventually agreed with their position.

National Membership Director Michael Martin presented a workshop on the ritualisic elements of the Grange.

Grangers also participated in the pubic speaking, sign-a-song and Grange Jeopardy contests.

Daniel Greer of Colorado topped the prepared speech contest earning the Best of Show award. Beth Simons of Colorado earned the Best of Show award in the sign-a-song contest.

Three Coloradoans qualified to represent the Great Plains Region in Grange Jeopardy, Daniel Greer, Beth Simons and Dominick Breton.

Photos from Great Plains Conference can be viewed at the National Grange Youth Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/nationalgrangeyouth?fref=ts.

 

 

Five steps for youth legislative involvement

On Tuesday, April 21, the Grange Youth Department hosted its monthly TeamSpeak meeting. Grange youth member Christopher Szkutak shared five points on how Grange youth can participate with grassroots advocacy.

Point #1 — If your community grange does not have a legislative director/chair volunteer to serve. If your Grange has a legislative chair, ask to join the legislative committee. It’s a chance to step up and learn more about issues impacting your community and share it with your fellow Grangers.

Point #2 — Help your Grange to organize a legislative night. If an election year, host a candidates forum instead. The non-partisan stance of the Grange is a value to many legislators. Grange halls are a great forum for legislators and candidates to share their ideas, goals and listen to the concerns of the community. Legislative nights also have a news value and can generate publicity for the Grange.

Point #3 — Review state and national Grange policy books. See if a resolution is needed on an issue. Do research beforehand to make sure every is accurate. If you need help writing a resolution, ask others for help. As one Granger suggested, hosting a workshop about resolution writing can help encourage youth and Grangers craft resolutions to send to Pomona and state Grange for consideration. The youth department also has an achievement seal program to recognize Grangers for their participation.

Point #4 — Participate in National Grange Youth legislative programs, such as the John Trimble Legislative Experience. The Trimble Legislative Experience or a state-level program, gives Grange youth and young adults a chance to have a front-row seat to the delegate process. Trimble youth participate on a national delegate committee and is seated with the national delegates. They also assist the National Grange Legislative department.

Point #5 – Organize a subordinate Grange lecturer’s program based off the Apathy Not Allowed. The program promotes the value of Grange members engaging in the voting process. The United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts of all developed countries. The program reminds Grangers that twice a year, through a primary and general election, they have a chance to impact who their elected officials are.

 

 

 

Eastern Regionals rewind

A big thank-you to the Ohio State Grange for hosting the 2015 Eastern Regional Youth Conference.

National Grange Youth Ambassadors Cassidy Cheddar and Derek Snyder joined me to present two workshops. The first was on PI2 (PI squared) to encourage Grange involvement to encourage Grange growth. The second was based on the program, Apathy Not Allowed, or grassroots advocacy.

Michael Martin, National Membership director, presented a workshop on code reading. As expected, for many of the Grangers, it was the first time they had ever attempted the code reading. With some encouragement, Jenna Wyler, the 2014-15 Ohio State Grange Youth Ambassador earned a Thompson Achievement Seal for code reading.

The contests were very competitive, especially Grange Jepardy, where youth tested their Grange knowledge. Jennifer and Rob Beaman of Pennsylvania and Melanie Fitch of Ohio will represent the Eastern Region at the national contests. In the public speaking contest, the winner was Jenna Wyler of Ohio Melanie Fitch of Ohio earned the best of show sign a song.

The regionals was also a time for Grangers to enjoy getting to know others from other states, share Grange stories and create new friendships.

For a photos from the event, go to the National Grange Youth Facebook page.

USDA to Provide $332 Million to Protect and Restore Agricultural Working Lands, Grasslands and Wetlands

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack  announced that U.S. Department of Agriculture is making available $332 million in financial and technical assistance through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) on March 31.  USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will accept ACEP applications to help productive farm and ranch lands remain in agriculture and to protect the nation’s critical wetlands and grasslands, home to diverse wildlife and plant species.

“USDA helps farmers, ranchers, private forest landowners and partners to achieve their conservation goals using our technical expertise, Farm Bill funding and sound conservation planning,” Vilsack said. “Conservation easements are an important tool to help these landowners and partners voluntarily provide long-term protection of our nation’s farmland, ranchland, wetlands and grasslands for future generations.”

The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated three previous conservation easement programs into ACEP to make it easier for diverse agricultural landowners to fully benefit from conservation initiatives. NRCS easement programs have been a critical tool in recent years for advancing landscape-scale private lands conservation. In FY 2014, NRCS used $328 million in ACEP funding to enroll an estimated 145,000 acres of farmland, grassland, and wetlands through 485 new easements.

In Florida, NRCS used ACEP funds to enroll an additional 6,700 acres in the Northern Everglades Watershed, supporting the restoration and protection of habitat for a variety of listed species, including the Wood Stork, Crested caracara, and Eastern Indigo Snake. The Nebraska Land Trust plans to use ACEP to enroll more than 1,400 acres of native grazing lands that also include grasslands and woodlands that provide critical habitat for Nebraska’s bighorn sheep and elk.

ACEP’s agricultural land easements not only protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, but they also support environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space. American Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements. A key change under the new agricultural land easement component is the new “grasslands of special environmental significance” that will protect high-quality grasslands that are under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development and other non-grazing uses.

Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private and tribal landowners to restore, protect and enhance wetlands through the purchase of these easements, and Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement; tribal landowners also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.

ACEP applications may be submitted at any time to NRCS; however, applications for the current funding round must be submitted on or before May 15, 2015.

To learn about ACEP and other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or your local USDA Service Center.