WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Eleven university students have been invited by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns to attend the discussions of agriculture's future at USDA's 2007 Agricultural Outlook Forum this week.

The conference, "Agriculture at the Crossroads: Energy, Farm and Rural Policy," is March 1-2 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. USDA's Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program was created this year to provide students a unique insight into in their agricultural studies.

"The Forum has a tradition since 1923 of looking toward agriculture's future, and this year, we've created a new opportunity for students to learn about their own futures in agriculture," said Johanns. "Attending the Forum gives our young people the perspective to recognize historic change and the wide range of opportunities in today's world of agriculture."

The juniors and seniors majoring in agricultural-related studies at Land Grant universities were selected based on their essays, "Why I Want a Career in Agriculture."

The students representing their universities are Rosalind Booker, Virginia State University; Meredith M. Esguerra, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Monique Fahie, Alcorn State University; Sara Falk, Michigan State University; Matthew Greiner, Michigan State University; Alicia Lowe, Virginia State University; Lakeitha Ruffin, Alcorn State University; LeAnn Rutledge, North Carolina A & T State University; Kristen Walker, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Corrina Willis, Lincoln University; and Victoria Young, Lincoln University.

The students' attendance at the Forum is sponsored by corporations and USDA agencies, including CHS Foundation; Deere & Company; Farm Credit Bank of Texas; AgFirst Farm Credit; Georgia Farm Credit Association; Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; Economic Research Service; and the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.

Plenary speeches are webcast at www.usda.gov/oce/forum after 3:30 p.m. EST on March 1, with speech and PowerPoint presentations posted online at the end of each day's session. A full roster of speakers and registration information is also posted.

SOURCE: USDA news release.