Answers to routine questions about the National FFA Charter revision.
What is the FFA Charter?
A federal charter was granted to the National FFA Organization in 1950 when Public Law 81-740 was passed by the U.S. Congress. The Charter serves as National FFA’s articles of incorporation and as the organization’s governance document. Public Law 105-225, passed in 1998, provided technical revisions to the original federal charter.
The charter publicly acknowledges the National FFA Organization’s role as an integral part of public instruction in agricultural education.
What is a federal charter?
The United States Congress issues charters under Title 36 of the United States Code that states the mission, authority and activities of the group. In some cases, federal charters are viewed to be a symbolic gesture from Congress, as Congress does not typically supervise the actions of chartered organizations. Some charters, such as the one attributed to National FFA, identify specific affiliations and supervision from a federal agency. FFA is in the minority of organizations holding a federal charter that is closely affiliated with a governmental agency, which in FFA’s case is the U.S. Department of Education.
Is the National FFA charter unique?
Yes. Congress has chartered around 100 organizations over time, and six of them have affiliations with a federal agency. National FFA is the only chartered organization that has stipulations within the charter mandating that the U.S. Department of Education selects or approves a majority of its members of the board of directors, including the national advisor, board chair and four other board positions.
Why is the National FFA charter being amended?
Amending the federal charter allows National FFA to be self-governing while maintaining a long-held relationship with the U.S. Department of Education. National FFA will assume responsibility for selecting all but one position on the board of directors. The board chair, national advisor and national executive secretary will be determined by National FFA or the under the proposed charter amendments.
Additionally, the amended charter will clearly define the integral nature of the three component model of agricultural education, leadership development through FFA, and work-based and experiential learning for students. The amended charter sets the stage for FFA operations in the 21st century and ensures FFA members are equipped with the leadership skills necessary to thrive in future careers.
What changes are there?
Through this charter revision, National FFA is seeking to accomplish many objectives that will sustain the future of the organization and place responsibility for the organization in the capable hands of the National FFA Board of Directors. Notable changes include:
- The U.S. Department of Education will select an employee to serve as a member of the National FFA Board of Directors.
- The charter will more clearly explain the integral nature of the three component model of agricultural education, leadership development through FFA, and work-based and experiential learning for students.
- Formalization under the law of the longstanding focus of FFA and agricultural education on preparing students for traditional farming careers and the wide range of unique modern careers available in agriculture, food and natural resources.
- An opportunity for FFA to increase self-governance and the flexibility to select and install a board of directors that reflects the integral relationship of FFA with school-based agricultural education, along with the diverse priorities and career areas of interest to FFA members.
- New opportunities for FFA to work collaboratively with the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies to strengthen FFA and school-based agricultural education.
- Modernized communication methods that provide opportunities to reach more students with the message of FFA and youth leadership development.
- Flexibility for National FFA to have a minimum of six national officers, providing the option of expanding the number of national officers to increase membership reach as the organization continues to grow.
Why would National FFA want more than six national officers?
Clearly, FFA membership has grown significantly since the first federal charter in 1950. While there are no plans to expand the current number of national FFA officers, the amended charter grants National FFA leaders the future option to consider expanding the number of national officers so that more members can be reached.
Does the U.S. Department of Education agree with this change?
Yes, the U.S. Department of Education has voiced support for the pursuit of these amendments. During expansive discussions, the Department has indicated it is no longer comfortable with its governance role over FFA as stipulated in the present federal charter. The proposed amended charter specifically mentions that National FFA and the Department will continue to collaboratively pursue and lift up initiatives that have a common interest between the two organizations while removing the Department’s responsibility to be involved in the selection of the majority of seats on the National FFA Board of Directors.
Have state leaders been a part of this revision process?
Yes. National FFA leadership and the board of directors have made it a priority to include state leaders in this process that began in earnest after the 2016 National FFA Convention & Expo. State leaders were briefed on the subject in January 2017 at the National FFA Inservice, and included in town hall meetings in June 2017. A number of one-on-one visits and conversations took place between National FFA leadership and state leaders throughout the first half of 2017. Additional discussions at the 2017 National FFA Convention & Expo and other events have allowed state leaders to inform the board about state priorities and concerns, most of which have been addressed in the proposed amendments to the charter.
Will this affect state FFA associations?
This is a federal charter and the revisions only affect the governance structure of the National FFA Organization. The continued association with the U.S. Department of Education through its appointment of one Department employee to the National FFA Board of Directors reflects our ongoing recognition of the importance of this relationship and illustrates that National FFA has a direct tie to this federal educational agency. The charter continues to designate the importance of agricultural education and FFA, and calls out more succinctly the three-component model’s integral nature to the overall agricultural education experience.
How will this amendment process work?
The Senate bill (S. 2432) has been introduced to the 115th Congress by original cosponsors Senator Donnelly (D-IN), Senator Lankford (R-OK), Senator Jones (D-AL) and Senator Young (R-IN), and the House Bill (H.R. 5595) has been introduced by original cosponsors Representative Thompson (R-PA), Representative Langevin (D-RI) and Representative David Young (R-IA).
After the introduction, the bills were referred to the judiciary committee on each side of Congress. National FFA will continue to seek additional support and legislative co-sponsorship from other members of Congress for the passage of the charter amendments. The desired result would be for the judiciary committees to review the bill and refer it on for passage. The bill will require passage by the full House of Representatives before heading to a similar process in the Senate. When both sides have passed the bill, it will then be submitted to the president to be signed into law.
What if I have concerns about this revision? Who should I contact?
For specific questions about the legislative text, please contact Riley Pagett, FFA director of advocacy and government relations.
General questions about the direction of National FFA or the context of the amendment to the federal charter may contact any member of the National FFA senior leadership team – Mark Poeschl, Molly Ball or David Schapker.