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Extension > Youth Development > Minnesota 4-H > Minnesota 4-H Policies

Minnesota 4-H Policies

Understanding policies

Why policies, rules and deadlines?

Policies are intended to guide decisions and achieve rationale outcomes. Minnesota 4-H policies provide general direction to staff, volunteers, members and their family, on a course of action as it relates to the 4-H Youth Development program in Minnesota. Any individual participating and/or volunteering with the Minnesota 4-H program at any level (individual, club, county, regional, state, national and international) is subject to the policies, rules, deadlines and behavior standards governing participation and involvement.

Rules define in written form acceptable behavior, action or operation. Rules have consequences if not followed. Minnesota 4-H has rules related to membership, volunteering, youth and adult behavior (code of conduct), participation in projects and competitive events, and use of resources.

Deadlines are the dates by which something needs to be completed. Minnesota 4-H sets some deadlines statewide with other deadlines established locally. Deadlines may or may not have consequences. Every Minnesota 4-H member is eligible for a "one time exemption" from the consequences associated with missing a single competitive event deadline.

How are 4-H policies, rules and deadlines determined?

When considering whether to implement or change a policy, rule or guideline, Minnesota 4-H considers the following:

  • Is this a legal expectation required by their group exemption status as a public non-profit organization and/or by federal and/or state statute?
  • Is this a requirement of the University of Minnesota Extension, University of Minnesota, and/or National 4-H Headquarters at USDA?
  • Will this attract and retain youth, volunteers, and partners who reflect a broad interpretation of diversity?
  • Will this reflect positive youth development principles and practices?
  • Will this enhance the quality of the learning environment?
  • Will this ensure an equitable and uniform opportunity for participation in cooperative and competitive learning experiences?
  • Will this promote and expect efficient and effective use of fiscal and human resources?

Membership and code of conduct


Minnesota 4-H Youth Development, a part of the University of Minnesota, offers a range of short and long term educational programs that meet the needs of young people from kindergarten through one year past high school. All youth participating in any program offered by Minnesota 4-H Youth Development are considered 4-H members. This definition of membership emphasizes our public and organizational commitment to ensuring the diverse youth of this state have equal opportunity for participation (intensity, duration, breadth) in quality (safe, supportive, interactive, engaging) learning experiences. Learn more about how youth can participate in 4-H.


Nearly all youth involved in a 4-H program must be enrolled in 4-H and their complete enrollment data (club and project selection is optional) collected and entered into 4HOnline. This allows Minnesota 4-H to track participation for program management and reporting purposes and ensure member safety through adequate risk management.

The two exceptions to the enrollment policy are as follows: a) short-term low-risk marketing programs where the parent or responsible adult are present and responsible for their child(ren); and b) a U of M program agreement is in place with a collaborating partner who manages the enrollment and assumes the liability and risk.

County boundaries should not be barriers to 4-H participation. Therefore, youth may enroll in 4-H across county lines and/or state borders. Youth will enroll in one county which becomes their home county. When establishing new 4-H clubs that have youth enrolled from several counties, a home county must be designated for the group.

New members may enroll at any time during the year. Returning members must re-enroll each year; enrollment opens on Sept. 15 and youth are encouraged to enroll before the end of Oct. but enrollment will be accepted throughout the year. Consequences of enrolling later are as follows:

  • Youth who have not re-enrolled may no longer receive direct communication about 4-H opportunities.
  • Youth who have not re-enrolled may not serve as an officer or vote at a meeting of the 4-H club, federation/council or other organized group.
  • Youth must enroll/re-enroll prior to participating in any 4-H program including, but limited to, club activities, project meetings, and events; those not enrolled will not be allowed to actively participate. (e.g. Youth may not practice with or attend the project bowl event until enrollment is completed.)
  • Youth who re-enroll after May 15 will not have full privileges when participating in the county fair and other competitive events. Review the exceptions to this rule and the specific consequences on the competitive events, deadlines, consequences and exemption options table. Every Minnesota 4-H member is eligible one-time in their 4-H career to file a "one-time member exemption" acknowledging they missed a 4-H deadline related to enrollment or competitive event participation and waive the consequences for the named deadline. The "one-time" member exemption form is available from the county Extension office in the county of membership.


During the enrollment process, youth and their parents complete a member authorization statement. This member authorization statement includes a medical authorization, waiver and release, privacy statement, photo release,  transportation consent and code of conduct agreement.

Special circumstances

Youth who are home schooled are considered enrolled in 4-H by the grade they would be in if they were being educated in a public school setting. This means the following:

  • A child who is 5 by Sept. 1 of the school year is eligible to enter kindergarten and thus, is eligible to enroll as a cloverbud in Minnesota 4-H.
  • A child who is 8 by Sept.1 of the school year is eligible to enter third grade and thus, is eligible to enroll in projects.
  • A member who is 11 by Sept. 1 of the school year is eligible to enter sixth grade and thus, is eligible to attend the state fair experience at the end of the 4-H program year.
  • A member who is 18 by Sept. 1 of the school year is eligible to enter their first year of post-high school education and thus begins their final year as a member of 4-H.

Youth who drop out of high school are considered enrolled in 4-H by the grade they were in when they dropped out and will continue to move through their remaining years in 4-H one year at a time. For example, if a 4-H member dropped out of high school during his/her junior year, he/she would be able to complete that year of 4-H and would be eligible for two more years of enrollment (one representing the senior year and one representing the final year after graduation).

Youth with special needs are considered enrolled in 4-H based on their grade in school. Minnesota State Law requires access to public schools until the age of 21. Thus, a 4-H club could include a 22-year-old special needs member if he/she is still enrolled in school. Participation at Minnesota 4-H activities and events outside the framework of the graduation policy must be pre-approved by the center staff most closely connected with the activity/event.

Youth who obtain college credits through a post-secondary program will be considered enrolled in 4-H by the grade they would be in if they were still enrolled in the traditional program.


Graduation from Minnesota 4-H is based on grade. Mandatory graduation from Minnesota 4-H will occur one year after graduation from high school. In other words, youth who graduate from high school in the spring will be allowed to enroll in 4-H for their final year of membership later that fall. It is suggested that county programs recognize full graduation for those members who wish to cease their 4-H enrollment upon graduation from high school.

Code of conduct

A standard of behavior for all individuals involved in our program is one of the key components for creating a welcoming learning environment that is physically and emotionally safe. Thus, any individual participating and/or volunteering with the Minnesota 4-H program at any level (individual, club, county, regional, state, national and international) is subject to the behavior standards and rules governing participation and involvement as outlined in the Minnesota 4-H Code of Conduct. The authorization for the code of conduct included in the enrollment process indicates that youth and their parents/guardians have read, accept, and will abide by the full University of Minnesota Extension 4-H Youth Development (Minnesota 4-H) Code of Conduct. Minnesota 4-H Volunteers agree to accept and abide by the Minnesota 4-H Code of Conduct during volunteer enrollment/re-enrollment.

Projects and competitive events



Animal science

Animal science polices are located on each animal science project page, including the following:

Shooting sports & wildlife

Competitive Events

State and county deadlines and consequences

Minnesota 4-H has a set of deadlines that provide a balance between welcoming youth and making the workload manageable for Extension employees. The competitive events, deadlines, consequences and exemption options table has been created to assist 4-H members, families and 4-H staff in understanding state and county 4-H individual competitive event deadlines, consequences applied to each situation/deadline, and the use of the one-time exemption to remove all consequences for a single situation/deadline. This chart is for statewide use; staff have access to table that can be localized for the county. Details regarding filing a "one-time" exemption are included with grievances processes.

County fairs

Rules and procedures for county fairs are outlined in the county fair premium book. 4-H adopted the following procedures effective for 2014.

State fair

National Events

Many national events have age eligibility rules for 4-H participation that are younger than the age for Minnesota 4-H graduation policy. Teams at these national events will not be able to contain participants that do not meet national contest eligibility. These individuals can still compete at the state level as an individual if the contest includes individual competition.

Participation in cross county 4-H competitive events

Youth may participate in non-quota competitive events in different counties. In quota based competitive events, youth will only be allowed to participate in competitive events in the county where they are enrolled unless that competitive event is not offered in the home county. In this case, quota adjustments will be made with the other county concerned in cooperation with the staff member responsible for the the regional/state event. Leadership for determining provision of participation and/or registration scholarships and/or fee waivers is the responsibility of the home county in which the young person is enrolled.


Learn everything you need to know about participating in 4-H.

Exemption and grievance processes

Process for missed deadlines

Because life sometimes gets in the way of a member or an entire family submitting the appropriate paperwork by the deadline, Minnesota 4-H has implemented a "member exemption rule." The purpose of this exemption is to provide every 4-H member with the ability "one-time" during their 4-H career to acknowledge that they have missed a 4-H deadline related to enrollment or competitive event participation and waive the consequences for the named deadline.

  • The exemption is per 4-H member.
  • The exemption may be used only one time in a 4-H member's career.
  • If a family misses a deadline for all eligible children, the family may choose to use the exemption for each child, or they may select which children would use their exemption at this time. This allows families to have choice in whether to use the exemption for a child now or to save the exemption for a potential future situation.

The competitive events, deadlines, consequences and exemption options table outlines the state and county 4-H individual competitive event deadlines, consequences applied to each situation/deadline, and the use of the one-time exemption to remove all consequences for a single situation/deadline.

Youth who wish to claim the "one-time" exemption may obtain the appropriate form from the Extension office in the county of membership. Timeline for the filing of the exemption form is outlined on the table.

Process for rule violation or alleged wrongdoings

The 4-H grievance process provides a vehicle by which to respond to 4-H member's concerns relating to their 4-H program participation. A grievance may be filed and a local volunteer grievance committee convened to address rule violations and alleged wrongdoing. A grievance committee will not be convened for the following situations: a) decisions made by judges, which are final; b) missed deadlines which are covered through the "one-time member exemption process;" and, c) code of conduct related violations which will be addressed by staff according to an established process.

The grievance committee process outlines what may and may not be grieved, who may file a grievance, and the processes for filing and hearing a grievance. The grievance form is completed by the Minnesota 4-H member and his/her parent/guardian if they wish to grieve a situation/decision related to an alleged wrongdoing or rule violation.

The grievance committee position description explains the purpose of the committee and the responsibilities of the committee members. Individuals who are invited by Extension youth development staff to serve on a grievance committee and agree to this role, complete the grievance committee member contract.

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