A new rule barring FFA members at the local fair won’t be changing, members of the Franklin County Fair Board said, but there’s a catch.

“To enable those youth in FFA to continue exhibiting at the Franklin County Fair, the process is easy,” the board said in a statement. “All the individual has to do is join a Franklin County 4-H club. These FFA members will still be able show their FFA project at the fair under the 4-H umbrella and experience the benefits of the 4-H program as well.”

The fair board decision to exclude non-Franklin County 4-H FFA members came at its August meeting, but few details about the new policy were revealed until this week. Individual board members, including Justin Webb, the fair board president, refused to answer direct questions about the change, but later issued a board statement with limited information.

A lack of communication about the new policy led to confusion and concern for FFA parents and members, Angelle Higbie, West Franklin High School agriculture teacher and FFA sponsor, said previously. Board members said this week they needed to work out the specifics before releasing further information about the policy, which applies to all FFA members across Franklin County.

“From what I understood ... there were some concerns with kids selling [livestock] in two counties,” Higbie said previously.

The board’s statement affirmed speculation that the root cause of the change was so-called “double dipping” by some FFA members.

“For the past several years, parents of 4-H and FFA members, along with representatives from the 4-H extension program, have expressed concern over the previous exhibitor policy,” the fair board said. “Under the old policy, FFA members were allowed to exhibit as a 4-H’er in their home county and show as an FFA member at the Franklin County Fair, even though they had an out-of-county residence and were already exhibiting at another county fair. The opportunity to exhibit in multiple county fairs is not afforded to Franklin County FFA/4-H members and is prevented in the guidelines of other surrounding counties such as Osage.”

The change aims to eliminate such loopholes, the board said, which board members said they knew were being exploited by some FFA members because of “complaints and county records.”

“The rule states that livestock that has been previously shown at a county fair outside of Franklin County may not be exhibited,” the statement read. “This includes both market and breeding divisions.”

Board members also said it wasn’t fair for FFA members to exhibit in Franklin County without taking responsibility for some of the event preparations, which typically are shouldered by the 4-H clubs.

“Another issue that prompted this decision is the lack of involvement and participation by non-4-H members in assisting with fair preparations, fundraising efforts and other duties that are essential to fair operations,” the board said. “These functions are carried out by 4-H members and their families who invest precious resources to ensure the success of the Franklin County Fair.”

Since the fair board doesn’t govern FFA members, it doesn’t have the ability to require them to help with such fair preparations, the board said.

The amount of time between the fair board’s FFA decision and when rumors about the change began to spread prompted Higbie to question the rule, she said, and wonder why FFA members hadn’t been notified.

“The appropriate parties will be contacted when details are finalized,” board officials said this week.