National Grange and Monsanto

The question of the Grange’s relationship with Monsanto is coming up quite a bit lately in our community and I thought I’d post my personal opinion on it.

We moved to Garden Valley in 2001. We found our way to Marshall Grange during the holiday, tasted the borscht, fell in love with the place, and my wife said let’s join!  I’m not much of a joiner but Marshall Grange was something we wanted to be a part of from the first visit.

I’d never heard of a grange so I searched for it on the Internet tubes and found it was a local part of a bigger thing. When I found my way to the National Grange’s website I read about support for Monsanto in a court case regarding Monsanto’s intellectual property rights. To most members of the human race this property is known as a seed! I’ve never supported GMOs or Monsanto so I stopped there and told my wife I didn’t want to fund the National Grange’s activities.

Over the next few years we went from attending events at Marshall Grange to becoming involved with putting them on, all the while never becoming dues paying members. We finished (almost) raising three kids here and after so many years of getting so much enjoyment and friendship out of Marshall Grange we decided to join. I actually struggled with that because I feel so strongly about our food chain and GMOs (Monsanto).

So we’ve been members for a few years now, but involved for about 16 years. With everything going on with our local Granges and Guilds I hear a lot of folks being anti Grange because they support Monsanto. I was talking with a friend about this and how I agreed with that stance so I thought I’d find the original article that I had read on it. I came across some interesting articles on the National Grange site regarding this and also on a blog post of the then National Grange President, Ed Luttrell, speaking about the process that led to the support. I remain opposed to Monsanto but I have gained an appreciation for the process.

The blog (found here) is a good read even though I don’t agree with all of it. For instance Luttrell explains how the Grange has always supported the advancement of science and technology in farming. I don’t have a problem with that but I don’t believe that support should come at such a cost.

If you make it far enough down the blog post you’ll see where Luttrell speaks to the process,

“… our policies are the result of many discussions and debates and each are eventually adopted by the delegates of the National Grange. These policies then are advocated for by the officers and staff of the National Grange. The strength of the Grange is this deliberative policy-setting process rather than allowing leadership to create policies based upon their personal views. …”. 

So he’s explaining that the support of Monsanto in this court case was adopted by the vote of the delegates of the National Grange, who are the officers of the State Granges, who are elected by local Granges. In my head an analogy is that I may not have voted for our current President of the United States, however enough citizens did to elect him.

I thought Buzz Chernoff explained it well when he talked about how resolutions are adopted in this process. Here Buzz explains a scenario where Marshall Grange supported a resolution that was passed and adopted as policy by the California State Grange,

“… resolutions upon which Grange policy is based, starts at the community Grange level.  A few years back the Marshall Grange wrote a resolution calling for legislation allowing cottage industries (home jam making etc.).  Passing a vote of the Marshall membership, the resolution was sent to the State where it was presented and voted on at the State convention.  Having passed the State, it was put into the California State Grange (CSG) policy, and the legislative director of the CSG found an assemblyman in the legislature to support the resolution, write a bill, and then sponsor it in the legislature.  After many hearings and a lot of compromise, the bill passed and we now have successful cottage industries operating throughout the state.  So, policy at the State level is initiated by resolutions from the community Granges, and voted on by the delegates at the CSG annual meetings.  This is why it is important for us to have delegates attending the annual convention.  …”

And here Buzz explains a scenario where a resolution wasn’t adopted by the National Grange but was adopted by the California State Grange,

“… Another example is industrial hemp.  Many years ago, the CSG adopted policy, based on a resolution from a community Grange, to support the legalization of industrial hemp.  Since this is a national issue as well as a state issue, the CSG took this resolution to the annual national convention where it was discussed and voted down.  The majority of members (delegates) attending the convention did not want this to be Grange policy so it was voted down.  Now you have an interesting situation in that the State has a policy supporting industrial hemp, while the National has a policy against industrial hemp.  The national does not come down to the CSG and say remove the policy.  Two opinions can exist at the same time.  And the CSG can talk to other State Granges and in time reintroduce the resolution, or have another state do it, so it can be voted on by the National delegates.  It is through this process that the policy can change.  The main point of all this is that policy is made from the grassroots, the community Granges and is voted on by the delegates attending the annual meetings. …”.

So I still do not personally agree with the National Grange supporting Monsanto (even if it’s actually supporting a specific issue not the company) but I’m a Granger so “I” do, just like I didn’t personally vote for our President but I’m an American so “we” did.

I believe that Marshall Grange should be a very big tent where we value what we agree on more than what we disagree on. There should be room for debate and if there is then someone will loose and someone will win. I guess I reconcile my membership in the Grange with the knowledge that I’m now voting on Marshall Grange’s positions and Marshall Grange has done great things for me and my family. Simple as that.

If this topic interests you the following links may be worth your time: