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By KAY SHIPMAN
FFA membership offers students many educational and leadership benefits as well as career opportunities. Starting this fall, the cost to belong to FFA will no longer be a challenge for ag students in Illinois.
A state appropriation of $550,000 will pay the FFA membership dues for every student taking agriculture classes in Illinois. The fee elimination makes Illinois an FFA-affiliation-membership state, ensuring every ag ed student will have FFA dues automatically paid.
Jesse Faber, agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Pontiac Township High School, told an agriculture education advisory committee June 21, defraying the costs will help students and schools. Faber noted the costs for membership adds up for chapters.
Funding for dues and other required services, such as record-keeping services, added up to an extra $1,000 to $1,200 a year for his school.
Gov. JB Pritzker said his priority is to make agricultural education more accessible.
In a statement, the governor said he was proud to implement a measure spearheaded by state Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, to waive FFA membership fees for all Illinois ag students.
“The more bright minds we can bring in to help solve the agricultural problems of tomorrow, the better we all will be in the future,” Turner said in a statement.
Illinois Agriculture Director Jerry Costello II noted nearly 37,000 students across the state took ag classes, but 23,000 belong to FFA.
“By removing the cost barrier, this opens up the doors for thousands more students to benefit from what FFA provides, which goes well beyond what can be taught in the classroom,” Costello said.
The state also has strengthened ag education’s position in curriculum.
In 2021, the General Assembly passed, and Pritzker signed two measures that added “agriculture education” to the list of acceptable electives qualifying students for admission to state universities and added “agricultural sciences” to the list of acceptable science courses for admission.
In Illinois, FFA membership is offered to students in seventh through 12th grade. Currently, more than 350 schools across the state have a FFA chapter.
This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.