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January 31, 2007   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
January 31, 2007

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Students from Alabama A&M, Auburn and Tuskegee universities are gaining valuable experience in government and public policy development thanks to the Alabama Farmers Federation's Congressional Agricultural Internship Program.

Danyelle Starks of Alabama A&M University, James Benjamin Berry of Auburn University and Keith Elliott Burrell of Tuskegee University recently were selected as the first students to participate in the internship program. Federation President Jerry A. Newby, a Limestone County farmer, praised the state's congressional delegation and agricultural universities for their cooperation in making the new program a reality.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for college students to get an inside view of just how Washington works on today's rural and farming issues," said Newby. "This program will provide a solid foundation for our future agricultural leaders, giving them a greater understanding of the legislative process. We're thankful for the role the state's land-grant universities - Auburn University, Alabama A&M University and Tuskegee University - are playing in helping us develop tomorrow's leaders."

As congressional interns, program participants will attend agriculture committee hearings, prepare briefs, conduct research directly related to federal agriculture policy or rural development and meet with constituents. The students also may receive college credit by giving a written presentation of their experiences. The interns receive a salary of $2,000 per month.

Starks, a senior in agricultural economics, is working with Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville. "This opportunity will certainly prepare me for my career," said Starks, whose collegiate activities have included Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS), Circle K, Agribusiness Club and the Alabama A&M University Choir.

Berry, a senior in horticulture at Auburn University, is working with Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile. After graduation, Berry plans to participate in a master's program in Europe where he will study international horticulture. While at Auburn, Berry served as a Student Government Association senator for the College of Agriculture as well as being active in Hort Forum and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA).

"I am very excited about the opportunity to gain exposure in Washington and work on behalf of Alabama's farmers," he said.

Rep. Bonner said Berry will be a valuable addition to his Washington staff.

"I am very pleased to have Benjamin Berry as an intern in my Washington, D.C., office," said Bonner. "Benjamin's studies at Auburn University, combined with his first-hand knowledge of Baldwin County agriculture - specifically the nursery industry - will enable him to provide valuable input as Congress addresses the 2007 Farm Bill."

Burrell, a graduate student in agricultural economics, is working with Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Anniston. A native of Marengo County, Burrell has been active in the Atlanta Tuskegee Alumni Club, the Business Law Debate Club, Tuskegee Marching Band and has volunteered as an elementary school tutor and as a fund-raiser for charitable organizations.

"The opportunity to spend a semester in Washington, D.C., working on agricultural policy issues would provide me the knowledge and skills necessary to reach my career goals of working in the area of rural economic development. Also, the fact that the internship program will be held during the same time that the U.S. Congress will be working on the 2007 Farm Bill gives me the opportunity to work on an important piece of legislation," he said.

Rep. Rogers said it's only fitting that the new internship focus on agriculture, Alabama's largest industry.

"Agriculture is a vital economic engine for east Alabama, and I am pleased my office will be participating in this valuable education partnership with (Alabama Farmers Federation)," Rogers said. "With the Farm Bill reauthorization coming up, Keith joins my Washington staff at an important time. I look forward to his assistance in supporting our efforts to continue to work for all of the Third District's farming interests."

Both Rogers and Bonner serve on the House Agriculture Committee, along with Congressman Terry Everett, R-Rehobeth, who regularly hires interns from his area to work on agricultural issues.

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