College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Nutrition & Food Science

Selected Students Sit-In on “Smart Agriculture” Forum

Two AGNR students discuss their experience at the USDA’s Agriculture Outlook Forum

Technology take-over is in full force; changing the way we communicate, the way we are entertained, and even the way that we eat. Taking this into consideration, the USDA’s 2015 Agriculture Outlook Forum chose to focus on “Smart Agriculture in the 21st Century” and two AGNR students got to experience the discussion firsthand. Doctoral student Latisha Judd from the Department and Animal and Avian Sciences and Ariel Bourne, a junior Food Science and Government and Politics double major, were selected to attend the forum from a pool of national applicants

Bourne, a Banneker Key Scholar, was selected to be one of only 20 juniors and seniors in the nation to attend the February 19-20th conference held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va. While Bourne was asked to write an essay concerning “Agriculture as a Career,” Judd was one of ten graduate students across the country that was selected to attend the forum based on her essay concerning “The Greatest Challenge Facing Agriculture over the Next Five Years.”

“There will always be advances in technology and while technology may make some things easier it can't replace the hands-on jobs of farmers,” Judd asserted. “Technology should only be used as a tool to enhance production.”

Judd went on to mention other challenges that agriculture will surely face in the near future, saying, “There are some issues (water scarcity, food waste) that cannot be ignored. We as a country and a world must all be held accountable for our actions and all be more aware of the impact our actions have.”

Bourne, who aspires to become a food inspector or consumer safety officer, says the forum left such an impression that he hopes to return one day as an established professional in his field.

“This is important because technology is needed to make our food production more efficient and decrease wasted resources if it is expected to feed the entire world, even as our population increases,” Bourne said. “Something interesting that I learned is that the price of sequencing a genome of a microorganism has decreased over time from a few thousand dollars to only about $50, which makes it a lot easier to find foodborne contaminants in the food supply.”

Bourne also enjoyedgetting to know the 29 other participants in attendance, being treated with professionalism, and listening to Phil Hogan, the Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development for the European Commission, talk about agricultural differences and similarities between the United States and Europe.

“As a city boy from New York City, it's weird to think that I would pursue a career in agriculture,” Bourne explained. “However, the beauty in agriculture lies in the fact that I can study multiple disciplines that somehow all relate.Agriculture is actually a huge melting-pot of disciplines which provides opportunities for everyone from engineers and biologists to lawyers and economists, and everything in-between.”

Some of Judd’s favorite memories, on the other hand, included a networking event where she met and interacted with female farmers and White House liaisons such as Krysta Harden, the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture.

Both Judd and Bourne say the forum’s central theme of “smart agriculture” gave them much to consider as they approach their future careers.

 “This experience has allowed me to be more conscious of the everyday decisions I make,” said Judd.

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