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As the national health scare surrounding the coronavirus continues to grow, FFA programs in many states have been forced to cancel or postpone their annual conventions.

FFA officials in Iowa announced last week that the 2020 state convention, slated for April 19-21 was canceled. In Missouri, the 2020 state convention scheduled for April 23-24 was postponed. And in Illinois, where the state convention is not scheduled until June 9-11, the decision about any cancellation or postponement has not been made.

“This is the first time since 1945 we’ve had to cancel the convention,” says Iowa State FFA Advisor Scott Johnson.

As of March 20, 23 states had canceled or postponed their conventions. Those states are: Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.

Minnesota and Washington have announced tentative reschedule dates this summer.

In Illinois, FFA state officers are encouraging people to go to the organization’s Facebook page for videos being posted by state officers.

“We’re just trying to provide energizing, uplifting messages,” says state advisor Mindy Bunselmeyer.

FFA leaders in Illinois and other states have posted information on the groups’ websites regarding cancellations and new policies, such as no hand-shaking at events, and all say that the situation is changing day by day.

In Missouri, FFA Executive Secretary Keith Dietzschold said now that the decision has been made to postpone the convention, the group is “working to clarify how we are going to move forward not only on (the) state convention and its related events but on other activities that we expect could be impacted by COVID-19.” 

An update is expected by April 1.  

In Iowa, Johnson says state officer elections will be delayed because the leaders still hope to eventually hold officer interviews in person instead of online. Some other state contests have already been judged, and some activities are on hold.

“We’re sitting and waiting at this point,” Johnson says.

He says some of the impact of current events may not be felt for years. For many in FFA, the chance to attend their first state convention as a freshman is a turning point that encourages them to get involved and aim for state office.

Last year’s convention had more than 6,000 attendees representing 236 chapters. Whether that means there will be fewer freshmen from this year’s class who are inspired to get involved in leadership activities may not be known for another several years.

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Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.