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February 27, 2008   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
February 27, 2008

Lauren Lewis, right, accepts the award for being a finalist in the Collegiate Discussion Meet from 2007 YF&R Chairperson Chris Chinn.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Auburn University freshman Lauren Lewis was named a finalist in the American Farm Bureau Federation's Collegiate Discussion Meet Feb. 17 at the AFBF Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Conference in Baltimore, Md.

"By attending the sessions (at the conference), I learned how to become a stronger advocate for agriculture," Lewis said. "I was truly honored to represent Alabama."

As a finalist, Lewis received $1,000 from CHS Foundation, which also presented $250 to every competitor not reaching the finals. In all, 34 college students or recent graduates from across the United States competed for the top prize of $2,500, which was claimed by Grace Berryhill, a student at California State University.

The final discussion topic was the public perception of the family farm and how that perception affects agricultural policy.

"Farm Bureau's strength depends on its members' ability to analyze agricultural issues and decide on solutions that best meet their needs," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "At the collegiate level, the Discussion Meet is designed to foster these crucial skills in young people who may one day be active farmers and ranchers."

An animal science major at Auburn, Lewis earned a chance to compete in the "Sweet 16" round of the Discussion Meet during two preliminary rounds. She was then selected to compete in the "Final 4." The Discussion Meet helps participants build basic discussion skills, develop a keen understanding of important agricultural issues and explore how groups can pool knowledge to reach a consensus and solve problems. Although public speaking ability and debate skills are both useful in the Discussion Meet, the event rewards logical thinking and diplomacy as much as it does eloquence and persuasion.

Seven members of the Alabama Farmers Federation's Young Farmers Committee attended the Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Conference, which included 850 participants from across the country.

In addition to the Collegiate Discussion Meet contest, the conference featured a workshop on how to be an advocate for agriculture, a farm tour and other seminars.

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