Joining Veneman in Thursday morning’s plenary session will be James R. Cantalupo, chairman and chief executive officer of McDonald's Corp., and other food industry representatives, who will speak on this year’s Forum theme: “Ensuring a Healthy Food Supply.”

Franz Fischler, the European Union commissioner responsible for agriculture, rural development and fisheries, will speak at an Outlook Forum dinner session Thursday night.

"Demand for agricultural commodities is increasingly impacted by the latest diet trends," said Veneman. "This conference will provide an important national dialogue about how current lifestyles are influencing public health and the marketplace."

Thursday’s sessions will explore new research and initiatives on eating habits, functional foods and children's health. Sessions will also cover the growth in organic food sales, securing the nation's food supply, the impact of the discovery of BSE on the livestock industry and the promise of growing next-generation crops to produce pharmaceuticals and other products.

The program on Friday, Feb. 20 will begin with a plenary session on promoting healthy diets, featuring Eric Bost, USDA under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services; American Dietetic Association President Marianne Smith Edge; Pepsico Innovation Leader Brock Leach; Purdue University Agriculture Dean Victor Lechtenberg; and International Food Information Council President Sylvia Rowe.

Video webcasts of the morning plenaries will be available at www.usda.gov by 1 p.m. Eastern time each day.

The Forum will be held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. To obtain more information or register, click on www.usda.gov/oce/waob/agforum.htm or call (202) 314-4701. For information about the hotel, call (703) 920-3230.

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