What Now? (3/12/2021)

In the previous Friday Footnote, we learned that the National FFA lost a lawsuit and appeal regarding the use of the FFA emblem. The courts ruled that it was legal for the Texas FFA Association to enter into an agreement with the Chapter Supply Company of Danville, Illinois for FFA merchandise. The authority for this arrangement was found in Section 16 of PL 81-740 (the federal charter for the FFA). Section 16 gave the national association AND local FFA chapters AND state associations the authority to use the emblem and words belonging to the Future Farmers of America. So, what should the FFA do next? This is the last installment of a three-part series of Footnotes.

Protecting the FFA Emblem – Take Two

Even before the courts ruled on the lawsuit (District Court in 1953, Seventh Circuit Appeals Court in 1954) the national FFA realized they had a problem. Two different solutions to the problem were determined to be the best course of action – 1) Amend the Federal FFA Charter and 2) establish strict guidelines and policies for use of the FFA emblem and name.

At the July 1953 meeting of the FFA Board of Directors (Minutes, p. 9) Neville Hansucker [Curators Note: See the endnote about the exact spelling of Mr. Hansucker’s name. At this point in time, he was on the national agricultural education staff] recommended that a statement of policies be drafted regarding the use of the emblem by the State Associations and local chapters. Specific items, on which the emblem might be used, could be listed. Such a statement of policies should be presented to members of both the Board of Directors and the Board of Student Officers before the meeting in Kansas City, so that action could be taken at the convention.

However, at the Board meeting in October of 1953 the proposed policies were not discussed because the district court decision was under appeal (Minutes, p. 8). The Board wanted to wait to see the outcome of the lawsuit before enacting a policy. ·

At the January 1954 Board of Directors meeting Mr. Tenney wondered if the FFA should consider having Section 16 of the Federal Charter amended or wait until the appeal court heard the case. Dr. Spanton said it might be wise to amend the charter even if the FFA won their appeal because trademark registrations do expire. He believed an amendment to PL 81-740 would give the FFA emblem permanent protection.

Finally, Mr. Hansucker got to present his proposed emblem policies at the January 1954 FFA Board of Directors Meeting (Minutes, p. 13). However, the Board decided to place the proposed policies on the table since the appeals court had not yet ruled. In the meantime, it was decided to have two states in each of the FFA regions review the proposed policies and offer suggestions for improvement.

At the July 1954 FFA Board of Directors meeting (Minutes, p. 11) Dr. Spanton told briefly what had taken place in connection with the lawsuit [the appeal had been denied]. He then read two proposed amendments to the Federal Charter. The members of the Board approved of these amendments. The wording of these two amendments was not described in the minutes nor were they attached. There was no discussion of the proposed FFA emblem policies.

The October 1954 FFA Board Meeting started with some fireworks. Board member Wood (state supervisor from Florida representing the Southern FFA region) stated there was one state in the Southern Region that was concerned about the proposed amendment to PL 81-740 (Minutes, p. 1):

… this proposed amendment would take too much authority away from the States and place it in the hands of the Board of Directors and Board of Student Officers of the National Association.

Mr. Wood reported further that there is a feeling that there are a number of FFA items on which the States should be able to use the FFA emblem, without asking permission from the National Office.

The Chairman of the Board pointed out that the Agricultural Education staff was in the process of preparing a set of “Official Policies Regarding the Use and Authorization for Use of the Name and Emblem of the FFA. These proposed “Official Policies” would contain a list of items given prior approval by the Board on which the emblem and/or the letters “FFA” could be used by the States and local chapters without special approval by the Board. The list could be added to by the Board from time to time as the need arises.

Later during the October 1954 Board Meeting (Minutes, p. 7) there was more discussion about both PL 81-740 and the proposed policies regarding the emblem. Dr. Spanton asked Mr. Hansucker to explain these policies to the Board members, and copies were distributed to all those present. The decision was made to seek input from state supervisors. The proposed Policies were to be mailed to all state supervisors with a request for criticism and suggested changes. The deadline for responses was to be before the next Board meeting in January of 1955.

One of the first items of business at the January 1955 Board meeting was the wording in one paragraph about the use of the FFA Emblem in the proposed policies (Minutes, p. 5). I found the expressed concern to be very interesting – perhaps it represented the thinking at that point in time. The last sentence of the fifth paragraph was the concern. Here is the fifth paragraph:

The ‘National name and emblem’ shall not be used by or associated in any manner with any organization or business when such use or association might reflect unfavorably on the national organization or its members. This prohibition applies particularly to any firm or individual engaging in the manufacture, sale or distribution of alcoholic beverages or tobacco products.

It was felt the last sentence of this paragraph was unfair and that the first part of the paragraph amply covered the situation. It was moved by Mr. Wood, seconded by Mr. Bunten, and carried that the Board of-Directors accept the recommendation of the Board of Student Officers, namely that we strike out the last sentence of this paragraph.

At this January 1955 Board meeting Mr. Watson (State Supervisor, Vermont ) reported on the poll he had made in the North Atlantic Region. He said he had asked the supervisors their opinions on the advisability of attempting to get the Federal Charter amended. All of the supervisors were in favor of going ahead with this amendment, which would protect the use of the FFA emblem. They, of course, would like to see some policies set which would give approval to State associations to use the emblem for certain items.

Considerable progress was made in regard to the proposed policies regarding the FFA emblem at the July 1955 Board of Directors meeting. (Minutes, p. 9)

The revised policies for the use and authorization of the use of the FFA emblem were then read and discussed in considerable detail, after which a motion was made by Charles Anken, seconded by Phillip Brouillette and carried that the Board of Student Officers recommend that the policies in regard to the use and authorization for the use of the FFA emblem, as corrected be approved. A motion was then made by Mr. Bunten, seconded by Mr. Johnson and carried that the action of the Board of Student Officers be sustained.

Later during the July 1955 Board meeting, Dr. Spanton described H. R. 6852 which was introduced by Congressman Davis of Wisconsin to amend PL 81-740 to allow FFA chapters to be established in schools that did not receive Smith-Hughes funding. Dr. Spanton didn’t think it would pass but wanted the Board to be aware of this proposal. There was no discussion about changing Section 16 of PL 81-740

Finally, the rubber hits the road. At the October 1955 Board Meeting (p. 3) prior to the FFA Convention the national officers and board members reviewed the revised statement of “Suggested Official Policies Regarding the Use and Authorization for·Use of the Name and Emblem of the FFA “. It was pointed out by the Chairman that these policies have already been approved by both Boards, but they must now be presented to the delegate body for action. Copies have been mailed to the Head State Supervisors of Agricultural Education and FFA Executive Secretaries for their study and recommendations.

The delegates officially approved the set of policies regarding the use of the FFA emblem during the 1955 National FFA convention (Proceedings, p. 24-25):

The next item of business was the suggested official policies regarding the use and authorization for use of the name and emblem of the FFA. These suggested policies had previously been sent to all State Associations and each delegate had received a copy of them. Student Secretary Brouillette read the suggested policies. It was then moved by Akers of Virginia that the suggested official policies regarding the use and authorization for use of the name and emblem of the FFA be adopted, motion seconded by Wilburn of Louisiana and carried.

The 1955 Policies regarding the emblem approved by the Board and Delegates is available here. There is a robust listing of allowed uses of the emblem and name that local chapters and state associations are entitled to utilize such as on stationery, posters, notebooks, exhibits, certificates, etc. However, any other use of the emblem or name (such as in commercial use) is under the control of the National FFA. Item 4 under the Basic Premises section of the document states:

Any use or employment of the FFA emblem or insignia, the letters F.F.A., or the name Future Farmers of America or any abbreviations thereof, which is not specifically included in this statement or policies is reserved to the National Board of Directors, upon the recommendations of the National Board of Student Officers, and the Delegate body at any National Convention.

Apparently, this set of policies worked. At the October 1956 FFA Board of Directors meeting (p. 1-2) we learn:

Mr. John Frank, President of the Frankoma Pottery Company, Sapulpa, Oklahoma, appeared before the Board to present a problem with which he was confronted in connection with the manufacture and sale of “Bolo Ties” bearing the FFA Emblem. He stated that he had been asked by a salesman {Paul Hammond.) to design and manufacture Bolo Ties bearing the FFA Emblem. Mr. Frank did so, but after making up 250 dozen of the ties, he learned that approval for the use of the FFA Emblem should have been secured. The Board members thanked Mr. Frank for his honesty and integrity in contacting them and advised that he would be informed as to the action taken by the two Boards.

After considerable discussion, IT WAS MOVED BY DALE RING, seconded by Allen Colebank and carried, that the Board of Student Officers not authorize the sale of the Bolo Ties manufactured by the Frankoma Pottery Company, as an official FFA item. MR. HUNSICKER MOVED that the Board of Directors sustain the action taken by the Board of Student Officers. [Note the spelling of Hunsicker in the minutes; previously it was spelled Hansucker] The motion was seconded by Dr. Tenney and carried. {Curators Note: Frankoma Pottery still exists today}

What about amending PL 81-741 to change the wording of Section 16?

Now that there is a set of official policies regarding the use of the emblem, shouldn’t the FFA go ahead and also amend Section 16 of PL 81-740? After all, it was that section of PL 81-740 that created the legal issue in the first place. But after 1955 there is no record in the FFA Board of Directors minutes about amending Section 16 of Public Law 81-740. It appears the FFA Board thought the policies enacted in 1955 would protect the FFA emblem.

At the January 1957 Board of Directors meeting there is a discussion about amending the charter but it has to do with the selection of Board members; not Section 16.

The FFA Charter (PL 81-740) was eventually amended in 1998 and again in 2019. However, those changes had nothing to do with protecting the FFA emblem. In a future Friday Footnote we will explore those changes in the FFA Charter and the reasons for them.


There have been lots of changes since 1955. Currently, the FFA has extensive guidelines about FFA branding. The seven-page document titled Official Board Policy on FFA Trademarks can be accessed at https://ffa.app.box.com/v/FFATrademarkPolicy. The organization of the current policies document follows the same format and uses some of the same language found in the original 1955 policies, except the current document is seven pages long as opposed to the shorter original. Section e of the Basic Premises in the current policy states:

No organization, member, employee, company, or representative of the FFA, or any local chapter, state association or state foundation is authorized to use any mark, word, phrase, terms of common usage, or descriptive marks relating to the FFA for any commercial purpose, or any other purpose except as granted in these policies, without the express written authorization of the National FFA Organization for the subject use.

It might be advisable for current agricultural educators to read through the current policy document.


Hansucker or Hunsicker?

In this document you will notice two name spellings for one individual – Neville Hansucker and Neville Hunsicker. They are the same person. During my high school teaching career, Neville Hunsicker was the National FFA Advisor (he served in this position from 1965-1979). I always knew him as Mr. Hunsicker.

However, as I delved into the history of agricultural education, I kept running across magazine articles he had written and other documents where he used the name Hansucker. For example, as the state supervisor of agricultural education in West Virginia, he was the lead author of a document written in 1950 titled Agricultural Occupations and Opportunities in West Virginia. He was listed as H. N. Hansucker.

Finally, curiosity got the best of me and I called him and asked why his name was spelled as Hansucker and Hunsicker. His explanation was interesting. At one point in time, his ancestors were in the business of making wagons. For a major exposition where the wagons were to be displayed, a sign painter was employed to create some signs. The sign painter misspelled the name Hunsicker as Hansucker. It was too late to redo the signs, so the wagons were displayed with the Hansucker signs. So, to avoid confusing people, his ancestors started spelling their name Hansucker. And that name stuck for decades.

When Neville left West Virginia to work at the national level in agricultural education, he decided to change his name back to what it should have been all along – Hunsicker. However, it took a while for all the people in the agricultural education profession who knew him as Hansucker to adapt to his new name of Hunsicker.