Legal-Ease: FFA and Congressional charters

This is National FFA Week. Formerly known as the Future Farmers of America, FFA is a student agricultural organization that is considered an integral part of the curriculum for each student who studies agriculture in America. In Ohio, agriculture students in junior high, high school or up to a few years removed from high school are in FFA. Unlike 4-H, FFA is a required part of formal agriculture education programs in schools.

Other than my religion, no organization has had a bigger impact on my life than FFA. Immediately following my high school graduation, I was fortunate to serve as state president and thereafter national vice president of FFA. However, it is likely that my local experiences were as influential as my national ones.

FFA is one of only a few Congressionally chartered nonprofit organizations in the United States.

Congressional Charters of nonprofit organizations recognize those organizations’ legitimacy and value to American life. A Congressional charter does not provide the entity with any legal protection or government affiliation, but a Congressional charter does impliedly endorse the organization’s authenticity and value to society.

There are two legal requirements for Congressionally chartered nonprofit organizations. First, those organizations must provide Congress with annual reports on their financial activities. Second, those organizations must provide Congress with annual reports of their activities in general.

A Congressional charter of a nonprofit organization has never been revoked. In fact, there have been virtually no federal enforcement actions against Congressionally chartered nonprofits that fail to submit their required reports to Congress. However, the prospect of charter revocation has arisen a few times in the last several years, most notably concerning the Boy Scouts of America related to its actions regarding involvement of volunteers who are openly gay.

Because a Congressional charter has no real, practical implications, since 1989, Congress has issued a moratorium on new Congressional charters for nonprofit organizations. However, like many actions of Congress, that moratorium has been overruled in recent years as a few nonprofit organizations have secured new charters.

Congressionally chartered youth organizations other than FFA and the Boy Scouts include the Girl Scouts of the United States of America and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

FFA’s Congressional charter likely neither helps nor hurts FFA in its role in providing a laboratory for agriculture students across America to gain leadership and positive interpersonal skills. In fact, community leadership does not require membership in a formal organization much less a Congressionally chartered organization.

With that being said, I often think that the second-last paragraph of the FFA Creed may be a positive thought to which all of us could aspire in our daily lives:

“I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so — for others as well as myself; in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.”

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Lee R. Schroeder R. Schroeder

By Lee R. Schroeder

Guest Columnist

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.