The largest U.S. student farm organization faces a reckoning on race

A racist incident involving a leader of the 700,000-member FFA spurred a backlash and revealed a long history of inequity at the student farm organization, says FERN’s latest story by staff writer Leah Douglas.

Although little known, the $31 million organization has members in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It boasts over 8 million alumni who work in all levels of the agricultural industry—from farms to equipment dealers to the biggest food and agrochemical companies. And it writes agriculture curriculums that are taught in schools across the country.

“Yet much like the agriculture industry, FFA is disproportionately white,” Douglas writes. “According to a 2019 report, white members make up nearly 70 percent of the organization, while around 15 percent are Hispanic, and only four percent are Black. In fact, the percentage of Black members hasn’t budged since the early 1990s.”

In May, the organization was roiled first by statements it made over the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis and later by racially offensive social media posts by one of its student leaders. This prompted a protest by members demanding the organization dismiss the leader, and more broadly, to reform an organization where racial disparities have long been present.