The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will give the keynote address and moderate a historic plenary panel at the Agricultural Outlook Forum, Feb. 23-24, 2012, in Arlington, VA. USDA is commemorating its 150th anniversary throughout 2012, celebrating the department's founding in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln. Former Secretaries of Agriculture Ed Schafer, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), Ann Veneman, Dan Glickman, Mike Espy, Clayton Yeutter, John Block and Bob Bergland have been invited to participate in a panel about the future of agriculture in America.

As USDA commemorates 150 years of accomplishments, the department is learning from past experiences and looking to the future. In the years to come, USDA must help address the changing needs of agriculture and rural America, while continuing to help provide a safe, ample food supply for the nation and the world. To meet those goals, USDA is working to make the department a more modern and effective service provider that delivers the best possible results for all of the American people. The Blueprint for Stronger Service, announced by Vilsack on Jan. 9, underscores USDA's commitment to build a modern and efficient service organization that is closely timed with technological innovations and better suited to respond to 21st century agricultural challenges.

The Agricultural Outlook Forum's 25 breakout sessions with more than 80 speakers will focus on a broad range of topical issues, including: global food security; foreign trade, financial markets, and economic development; conservation; energy; climate change; food safety; food hubs; Extension programs and next-generation farmers.

The forum continues to feature the traditional USDA commodity supply and demand and food price outlooks. Among the session speakers will be representatives from major banks, trade associations, agricultural institutions, corporations, cooperatives, consultants and academia.

USDA's Chief Economist Joseph Glauberwill present the foreign trade and domestic agricultural economic outlooks. The forum's dinner speaker will be Jim Miller, senior policy adviser to the Senate Budget Committee. Miller formerly served as USDA's Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, as well as chief economist and chief of staff for the National Farmers Union, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers and as co-chair of the Canada-U.S. Joint Commission on Grains.

USDA has hosted the Agricultural Outlook Forum since 1923 to provide farmers and ranchers, government, and agribusinesses with sound information for decision-making. Attendees are expected to include members of farm organizations, food and fiber firms, academia, foreign governments and the news media.

For further information, including registration and speakers' affiliations and biographies, visit www.usda.gov/oce/forum. Registration is $375 until Jan. 23, 2012, and $425 thereafter. Plenary speeches will be Webcast after 6 p.m. EST on Feb. 23, and breakout session speeches and powerpoint presentations will be posted online after 6 p.m. Feb. 24.