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USDA Announces Winners of the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2015—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the selection of 30 university students to attend USDA's 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum titled "Smart Agriculture in the 21st Century" to be held Feb. 19-20, 2015, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va. Twenty university juniors and seniors were chosen based on an essay sharing their thoughts on "Agriculture as a Career." Additionally, 10 graduate students were chosen based on their essay, "The Greatest Challenge Facing Agriculture over the Next Five Years."

"The Outlook Forum," said Secretary Vilsack, "will help give these students the chance to lay the groundwork for their future, hear speakers from diverse backgrounds in ag-related professions and, like previous program winners, the Forum will help the students expand their opportunities in their chosen fields."

USDA's Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program is designed to introduce students to contemporary agribusiness, future trends, scientific research, and agricultural policy in today's real world environment. The students are from 1862 and 1890 Land-Grant Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Non-Land-Grant Agricultural and Renewable Resources Universities.

Since the Program's inception in 2007, annual sponsorship has been provided by CHS, Inc. and Farm Credit. USDA's Economic Research Service, Agricultural Research Service, and Natural Resource Conservation Service also provide support. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore partners with USDA to make the program possible. Several of the 2015 winning essays are found here:

The undergraduate student winners are: Alexis Allen, Tennessee State University; Nicole Bayne, Oklahoma State University; Taylor Benedict, University of Arizona – Yuma; Darryl Blakely, Pennsylvania State University; Rycal Blount, North Carolina A&T State University; Rodrigo Bonilla, Washington State University; Ariel Bourne, University of Maryland College Park; Nathan Carson, University of Florida; George Collier, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Jamie Duggan-Lara, San Diego State University-Imperial Valley; Conlee Fry, Prairie View A&M University; Morgan Fortune, Tuskegee University; Onelisa Garza, Texas A&M University – Kingsville; Petros Maskal, California State University – Stanislaus; Kaylin McNary, Prairie View A&M University; Jamal Palmer, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Fatma Rekik, Cornell University; Martin Sanchez, Oregon State University; Gianfranco Santaliz-Rogers; University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez; and Malcolm Smith, Iowa State University.

The graduate student winners are: Parker Byington, Washington State University; Latisha Judd, University of Maryland College Park; Heather King, Humboldt State University; Alison Leathers, Tennessee State University; Emily Loehmer, Southern Illinois University – Carbondale; Holly Mayton; University of California, Riverside; Joshua Moore, University of Arizona; Wallace Seda-Calderon, Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico; Cassandra Skenandore; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Melissa Woolpert, University of Vermont.

Registration for the public, 2-day event is $450. Plenary speeches will be webcast after 6:00 p.m. EST on Feb. 19. Program details and registration information are available at

Writers, reporters, and editors may call Press Room Coordinator Mike Illenberg at (202) 694-5448 or Forum Coordinator Brenda Chapin at 202-720-5447 for more details.


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