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24 Feb 2012 - A Salute to FFA

We have just concluded the 65th annual observance of National FFA Week. I want to devote this week’s column to a salute to the 540,379 members in 7,489 FFA chapters in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands; and a special tip of the hat to the more than 10,000 agriculture teachers who guide these young people through the education and leadership programs that are the foundation of the FFA. As a high school member of the FFA and a current member of the FFA Alumni Association I am personally familiar with the work in leadership-building done by the FFA.

Let me share a little bit of FFA history:

-FFA was organized nationally in Kansas City in 1928 and in 1950, Congress granted FFA a federal charter.

-In 1988 the organization changed its name from Future Farmers of America
to the National FFA Organization. They did that to reflect the change in agriculture and in agri-business, and to call attention to the diversity of career opportunities involved in production agriculture and in agri-business.

Now let‘s look at change in the FFA to reflect the change in agriculture as well as society. 70% of FFA members now live in rural/farm areas; 19% in small towns and 10% live in urban and suburban areas.

There was a time when the FFA did not allow lady members. That changed back in the 60’s and today 43% of the members are women and they hold more than 47% of state leadership positions. There was a time when there was a separate organization, NFA - New Farmers of America, to serve African American students; today the FFA encompasses all students in vocational agriculture.

Through their work experiences which were labeled FFA Projects when I was a member in Wisconsin back in the 50‘s, the new term today is SAE or Supervised Agricultural Experience; through these programs collectively, FFA members earned $4-billion last year to put into their own bank accounts.

In 2010 corporate sponsors and friends provided more than $15.5 million for FFA and agricultural programs as well as scholarships to nearly 1,500 students.

Indeed, it is an organization that has grown its membership over the years, despite a decline in the number of farms and farmers, and it deserves our strong support as it continues to build leadership for tomorrow’s world. I salute FFA!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.