Those who emerge out of the National FFA Organization can go on to do great things — some may become famous through the entertainment industry, while others go on to serve their country in the political sector — either as an elected or appointed government official who served their country or by influencing major policy change or awareness.
The National FFA Organization is a natural precursor to becoming involved in politics. So many skills that young students learn in FFA will help them throughout their career as a public servant, as well as in life. From learning the rules of parliamentary procedure to becoming a confident public speaker or organizing their records, these are skills that FFA alumni have used in their political careers. Although the National FFA Organization has many FFA members who follow their passion in politics, it remains a non-political organization.
You may not or may not recognize every individual on this list, but they all served a great purpose, either as their time as a government official or during their time with the National FFA Organization. Several FFA alumni have gone on to serve the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, state legislatures, governor’s offices, and so many other avenues in our government. Here are seven FFA alumni who impacted politics and policy through their service and life.
1. Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter is the first, and so far only, National FFA Organization member who has gone on to be elected as the president of the United States. Growing up on a rural peanut farm in Plains, Georgia, Carter had a strong background in agriculture — and he served as his chapter’s secretary.
After starting a career as a politician, Carter spoke at the 48th National FFA Convention as a presidential candidate and once again in 1978 at the 51st National FFA Convention, after being elected president. Carter was president from 1977 to 1981.
2. Sam Brownback
Sam Brownback served most recently as the governor of Kansas from 2011 to 2018. He was a U.S. senator for Kansas from 1996 to 2011 and, prior to that, a U.S. congressman representing the state in 1995 and 1996. However, he got his start as Kansas State Secretary of Agriculture in 1986.
Brownback was his FFA chapter president. After that, he went on to be elected as the state FFA president. After his leadership as a chapter president, he served as a National FFA vice president from 1976 to 1977 before getting his start in politics.
3. Janice C. Eberly
Janice Eberly’s passion for serving others started when she became an active FFA member. Eberly served as the Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy, U.S. Department of the Treasury from 2011 to 2013.
Before that, she was nationally recognized when she was elected to serve as the first female National FFA president in 1982. She went on to become a professor of finance at the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University.
4. Matt Lohr
In 2021, Matt Lohr finished a term as the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Services. Before he was the Chief of NRCS, he served as Virginia’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services as well as created and led the Knowledge Center for Farm Credit of the Virginias.
Lohr grew up on a century farm in Virginia, and in his time in the National FFA Organization, he was a former state FFA president and a 1990-91 National FFA vice president.
5. Tim Walz
Walz was elected in 2019 to serve as governor of Minnesota. Before that, he served as a U.S. Congressman for the North Star State from 2007 to 2019.
Walz was celebrated for including FFA and 4-H in a redesigned agricultural license plate for Minnesota, and he has continually voiced support for the youth organization.
6. Fred McClure
McClure served three U.S. presidents — first as a White House intern in the Gerald Ford administration (1977); then as Special Assistant for Legislative Affairs to Presidents Ronald Reagan (1985-86), and finally for George H.W. Bush (1989-92).
McClure was the first African American to serve as a National FFA Officer as National FFA Secretary from 1973 to 1974. Before that he was the Texas state FFA president.
7. Special Mention: Chris Kyle
Although not a “politician,” he served our country with more grit and honor than most. Chris Kyle was a United States Navy SEAL sniper with a good heart, according to his FFA advisor. Kyle was largely recognized for his autobiography turned film directed by Clint Eastwood. Unfortunately, while trying to help a U.S. Marine Corps veteran deal with post traumatic stress disorder, Kyle was shot and killed. Kyle did four tours in Iraq, earning two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, and the Texas Medal of Honor. Growing up, Kyle showed cattle and exemplified the values of the National FFA Organization.
In 2013, Texas Governor and fellow FFA member Rick Perry signed the “Chris Kyle Bill,” to recognize military training in the issuance of occupational licenses. Kyle’s legacy has also included an increased awareness about mental health of U.S. service members and their treatment after they return home.
Our list is just the tip of the iceberg of politicians who left their mark on our government and whose roots started in FFA. You can find a more complete list on the National FFA Organization’s website, including celebrities and those in the business world. Famous or not, FFA members will continue to leave an imprint in their communities.