FCUSA was created in 1994 by the merger of several organizations with histories going back to 1944.
The National Board of Fur Farm Organizations, Inc., a non-profit co-operative association, was incorporated in Minnesota on December 16, 1944. This was a national group whose membership was comprised mainly of state, regional and local fur-farming organizations, but also included a few large farmers as individual members. Some of the founding member organizations, such as breeders’ associations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Utah, already had long histories of serving their individual fur-farming members. There were more than 20 original organization members, and over the years others joined while some ceased to exist. Bruce Smith, a respected Wisconsin mink farmer who also published American Fur Rancher magazine, headed the organization for a great many years.
The Fur Farm Animal Welfare Coalition, Ltd., was formed on October 9, 1987. The Coalition had previously been a committee of the National Board of Fur Farm Organizations, Inc. However, it was decided that it made more sense to have it as a separate organization focused on animal welfare and addressing animal “rights” issues, with funding for its programs coming from all farmers through the auction process. Visionary mink farmer Harold DeHart was instrumental in the formation and direction of this organization.
The Mink Farmers Research Foundation, Inc., was formed on March 1, 1954, to focus on research into mink diseases, nutrition, care practices, etc., with a board of farmers assisted by dedicated veterinarians such as Dr. J.R. Gorham, Dr. J.E. Oldfield and Dr. G.R. Hartsough.
Each of these three organizations had its own funding mechanism. To improve coordination of their activities and establish a joint funding mechanism, the National Fur Commission, Inc. was established on January 25, 1988. The Commission then created Mink Farm Service, Inc. in July 1989 to assume the role of the former EMBA-GLMA Mink Farm Service, Inc. to help continue the veterinarian service/program for all mink farmers. With the Commission working with the farmers and auction houses to provide funding, the member organizations focused on their programs to benefit all farmers no matter where or how the farmers sold their product. The Commission’s primary duty was to receive funds from the auctions and farmers and to divide the funds among the member organizations.
The Fur Commission USA, Inc. was officially formed on June 8, 1994 as a more formal combination of the organizations which had been the members of the National Fur Commission. In the new organization, it was the farmers who were the members. Separate permanent committees were established to handle the functions that the other organizations had previously handled. While financial realities and the consolidation of mink farms into larger entities helped drive the changes, incorporation was only concluded after the National Fur Commission structure had built up a level of trust and cooperation, and after negotiations resulted in safeguards to protect the programs, permanent committees, goals and financial reserves which each entity brought to the new organization.
Robert Buckler and Marsha Kelly provided guidance during the years of the National Fur Commission and early years of Fur Commission USA. Teresa Platt served as Executive Director of Fur Commission USA from 1998 to 2011. Her successor and current Executive Director, is Michael Whelan.