Two UMES undergraduates are among 30 university students the U.S. Department of Agriculture has picked to attend its 2018 Agricultural Outlook Forum through the USDA Student Diversity Program.
Senior Tobechukwu "Toby" Opara and sophomore Alexis Doon will join 28 other undergraduates and graduate students for a week in Washington, D.C. culminating in their participation in the USDA's largest annual meeting Feb. 22-23 that is expected to attract more than 2,000 people.
“These students are the next generation of agriculture, and it is important for the USDA to support their training as future agriculture professionals,” USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson said. “At the Ag Outlook Forum, (they) will hear current leaders share their vision for agriculture as they begin to map out their own careers.”
Doon and Opara, dean's list students and members of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, credit UMES chapter adviser Karl Binns Jr. with encouraging them to apply, which included submitting an essay “on agricultural careers and challenges.”
Opara, who is from Nigeria and majoring in biology, said, “I want to be part of that contingent that is going to help feed the world, especially in nations that need help producing food.”
Opara says he has accepted a job offer to be a poultry plant operations manager with Perdue starting this summer.
Doon grew up in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring and is studying agriculture. She hopes to go on to veterinary school.
“I've always loved animals,” she said. “I felt agriculture was a major I would enjoy because it would enable me to be around them, and learn how you raise them in a farm setting.”
The USDA Student Diversity Program, now in its 11th year, gives undergraduate and graduate students real-world learning opportunities in contemporary agribusiness, scientific research, and agricultural policy. Forum participants major in agriculture-related studies, including business, economics, communications, nutrition, food science, and veterinary studies.
During their visit, Doon and Opara will take part in a USDA briefing and a discussion of career opportunities with agriculture leaders in academia, government, and industry.
The Student Diversity Program is supported by academic and government institutions and corporations dedicated to promoting the education of the next generation of agriculturalists. This year's sponsoring organizations include the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Farm Credit.
USDA sponsors include the Agricultural Research Service; Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Economic Research Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service; Natural Resources Conservation Service; Office of Advocacy and Outreach; and the Office of the Chief Economist.
The forum highlights key issues and topics within the agricultural community, offering a platform for conversation among producers, processors, policymakers, government officials, and non-governmental organizations, both foreign and domestic.
Information from a Jan. 26 USDA press release was used in this report.