Ag forum to spotlight next crop of producers

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Nearly 2,000 people are expected to gather this week in Arlington, Va., during a two-day forum to discuss the future of agriculture in the United States.

The 2014 Agriculture Outlook Forum hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will take on topics related to new producer assistance, food safety, and foreign and domestic markets.

It will also preview the results of the 2012 Ag Census.

Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting will cover the event with daily updates live from Virginia.

The event will kick off Thursday when Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack leads panel discussions related to agriculture markets and young farmers.

Panel members include representatives from the agriculture industry, government agencies and agriculture associations.

“The Forum provides a learning platform to inform policy decisions,” said Brenda Chapin, a Department of Agriculture spokeswoman. “The primary benefits are the exchange ideas and information centered around the big picture of the economic outlook for agriculture -- resulting in better informed industry participants and government officials.”

The Department of Agriculture has hosted outlook forums since 1923.

This year, the program’s major theme is providing services to new and young producers.

Preliminary data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture will become available for the first time at the Outlook Forum. Panelists will cover the latest information on the number of farms, the amount of land in farms, the value of sales and government payments.

They will also cover the latest in agriculture demographics.

Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative, will provide the keynote address on Feb. 20. As the 11th trade representative, Froman is the primary advisor to the President on issues concerning international trade and investment, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative website.

The second day of the forum will offer sessions for discussing policy issues in conservation and rural development, as well as sessions on the weather’s impact on agriculture.

Agribusinesses, government officials, producers, researchers and other attendees will participate in break out lunch sessions that address specific commodity issues.

Chapin said the forum should address issues of interest to a wide array of stakeholders.

“For example, the commodity businesses may be very interested in the outlook discussions, while policy makers might have a stronger interest in the ‘Agriculture Supporting our Veterans’ session,” Chapin said.

“Nutrition: Who’s shaping America’s eating habits?” is a special session planned by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. This event will look at food production, nutrition, healthy eating and food safety, according to the Outlook Forum website.

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