The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced the plenary speakers for its 84th annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, “Energizing Rural America in the Global Marketplace,” Feb. 21-22, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.

The secretary of agriculture will deliver the keynote address on Thursday, Feb. 21.

Mark Keenum, undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, will address international agricultural trade, and Thomas Dorr, undersecretary for Rural Development, will speak on “Promoting a Rural Renaissance.”

Stephen Johnson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is the guest speaker.

“USDA's 2008 Agricultural Outlook Forum explores the future of American agriculture,” said acting Secretary Chuck Conner. “The forum's discussion will focus on the challenge of the global marketplace, which revolves around growing demand, record grain prices, and international trade agreements. We will explore the risks, opportunities, and policies arising at the intersection of these issues.”

“Getting It Right: Responding to Market Forces,” the forum's plenary panel, will include C. Larry Pope, president and CEO, Smithfield Foods; Thomas E. Stenzel, president and CEO of United Fresh Produce Association; and Paul Schickler, vice president and general manager, DuPont, and president, Pioneer Hi-Bred. One additional panelist has also been invited. Jean-Mari Peltier, president and chief executive officer of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives will moderate the panel.

In 2008, renewable energy remains at the forefront during the breakout sessions.

Addressing the biodiesel industry will be Larry Schafer of the National Biodiesel Board; while Mark Stowers, vice president for research and development at POET, discusses advances in ethanol processing efficiency.

Gregory Rosen, senior manager at the Power Light Corporation, will talk about progress with solar energy.

Representatives from Tyson Foods and Chevron Corporation, respectively, will discuss producing biodiesel from animal feedstocks and biocrude from plant material.

Charles Stenholm, former Texas congressman and senior policy advisor for Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC, will moderate a panel that looks at change agents in Rural America.

Mark Drabenstott, director of the Rural Policy Research Institute, will discuss “How definitions will impact the building of regional economies.”

Rural development sessions will also explore innovative financing and business models and the changing demography of rural America.

Examining the world of cotton at a luncheon will be William B. Dunavant III, president and CEO, Dunavant Enterprises, Inc. Dunavant's Rickard Laurin will also discuss “Promoting Cotton Production in East Africa.”

Food safety will be explored by Kathleen O'Donnell, chief food scientist at Wegmans Supermarkets; Frank Yiannis, director of safety and health programs, Walt Disney World; and Richard Raymond, undersecretary, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

Discussing environmental quality and agricultural policy will be H. Dale Hall, director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Tom Casadevall, director, Central Region, United States Geological Survey; and Craig E. Hooks, director, Office of Water Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Speakers will present an overview of U.S. agriculture's economic outlook, with individual USDA sessions to address major commodities. For a roster of speakers, program preview, and registration, go to: www.usda.gov/oce/forum.

Registration is $300 until Jan. 11, and $350 thereafter.

Plenary speeches will be Webcast after 3:30 p.m. EST on Feb. 21, with speech and PowerPoint presentations posted online at the end of each day's sessions.