In 1928, 33 students from 18 states gathered in Missouri to form the Future Farmers of America. Since that time, millions of agriculture students have benefited from the organization, including more than 650,000 current members from all 50 states and two U.S. territories. As the nation's economy and education and workforce systems evolved, so too did the organization. Now called the National FFA Organization, it supports and develops not just future farmers, but also future biologists, chemists, veterinarians, engineers, educators, entrepreneurs and more.
However, August 12 will mark 20 years without change to one important aspect of the organization: its federal charter with the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The result of legislation President Harry S. Truman signed in 1950 and the 105th Congress revised in 1998, the organization's federal charter requires the ED select or approve the majority of the National FFA Board of Directors, which has subsequently resulted in vacancies over the years. Additionally, the outdated federal charter restricts structural flexibility and self-governance abilities that are important aspects of FFA in the 21st century.
Fortunately, amendments to the charter are working their way through Congress. In the Senate and House, S. 2432 and H.R. 5595, respectively, would still maintain National FFA's relationship with ED but would grant flexibility in the organization's decision-making and board-selection processes. Moreover, it would catalyze business and industry involvement, helping align labor market needs across the country with learners' educational experiences, helping pave the way for student success in more than 255 unique careers in agriculture. Additionally, the amendments would help articulate today's agricultural education model and better incorporate educator and stakeholder input into the organization. That's why these bills are supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate and have the support of outside organizations too, such as the Association for Career and Technical Education.
In the final months of the 115th Congress, lawmakers should prioritize ensuring National FFA's charter supports today's agricultural education and pass the amendments to the organization's charter. Doing so would benefit the more than half-million National FFA members, the agriculture industry and the American economy at large.
About the author: LeAnn Wilson is the executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), which represents tens of thousands of education professionals and is the nation’s largest not-for-profit association committed to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers.
About the author: Mark Poeschl is chief executive officer of the National FFA Organization and the National FFA Foundation, where he is responsible for the operations and long-term success of the organization. Together with the National FFA Board of Directors and the National FFA Board of Trustees, he assures FFA’s relevance and service to agriculture and agricultural education.