WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today said his participation in the first-ever Group of Eight (G8) Agricultural Ministerial in Treviso, Italy, April 18-20, shows that agriculture is key to strengthening the global economy.

"Agriculture is the foundation on which recovery from the global recession and financial and food price crisis will be built, especially for developing countries, which derive much of their income from agricultural production," said Vilsack. "Given the magnitude of these issues, we must work together to ensure food security and economic prosperity for all."

While in Italy, the Secretary will meet with Food and Agriculture Organization Director General Jacques Diouf, International Fund for Agricultural Development President Kanayo Nwanze, and World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran. He will hold bilateral meetings with Egyptian Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Amin Ahmed Abaza, Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Shigeru Ishiba, and Russian Minister of Agriculture Yelena Skrynnik. He will also visit with China's Vice Minister of Agriculture Niu Dun, the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Hilary Benn, and the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Mariann Fischer Boel.

The G8 Agricultural Ministerial, comprised of top agriculture leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, is one of nine separately planned ministerial-level meetings delineated by function, including agriculture, development, finance and labor.

In addition to agriculture ministers from the G8, agriculture leaders from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, Egypt, India, Mexico, and South Africa are expected to attend this year's Ministerial, as well as the European Union's Commissioner of Agriculture and leaders of the African Union, World Bank, the World Food Program, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the Food and Agriculture Organization.