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Young professionals attend ag executive forum

Keeping an eye on the horizon is important for any business owner. Technology is constantly changing the way industries operate and plan for the future--even when the industry itself may be as old as dirt.

This week, 20 Agriculture Future of America Alliance and staff members joined the Association of Equipment Manufacturers to take a look at what is on the agriculture horizon. Through a special partnership, these young AFA Alliance professionals were given the opportunity to attend AEM's Ag Executive Forum and AG CONNECT Expo preview day, Jan. 28 to 29.

The AG CONNECT Expo is designed to give farm managers and owners a preview of what they can expect to see in new agriculture technology and practices in the next few years. This experience allows them to connect with agriculture experts and leading executives.

"Our family is very intuitive and looks forward, rather than looking backward. Today is a great example of how bringing a small group of people together who are highly influential in the industry can help my husband and I on our farm look forward to the next three or five years," said Cara Riekhof, AFA Alliance member. "Planning in the agriculture industry, everyone knows, is challenging. But if you surround yourself with those who are willing to think, willing to forecast, what might happen, you're success rate definitely increases."

The by-invitation Ag Executive Forum, allows agribusiness leaders and farmers to connect and discuss global challenges and changes happening in the industry. While this event is designed for high-level executives, achievement-minded producers and equipment dealers, AFA's partnership with AEM gave the members of the AFA Alliance the opportunity to attend. The AFA Alliance is a personal and professional development organization for young professionals in the agriculture and food industry.

"I think the reason why AEM selected AFA to partner with AG CONNECT is because they understand the importance of the next generation. Approximately 40 to 60 percent of upper level management is going to be exiting these businesses in the next five to ten years," Riekhof said. "The more we network and share our vision for the future and our foresight with these leaders, the more comfortable they are going to be handing over their businesses or departments to our younger generation."

Her fellow AFA Alliance member James Anderson also emphasized the event's importance to young farmers such as himself. "It allows me to think outside the box as to the coming challenges of the industry as well as network with different corporations, companies and Alliance connections. It just allows a medium for us to get involved and see what is going on. I need to stay ahead of what is going on as well as figure out what services and opportunities are out there that I can capitalize on to make my operation more profitable and keep it going."

The AFA Alliance provides members with development opportunities throughout the year including webinars, an annual AFA Alliance Forum and special opportunities such as the Ag Executive Forum and AG CONNECT preview day.

Anderson said of his AG CONNECT experience, "I feel like I'm part of an elite group to be able to be involved before the general public."

AFA's mission is to create partnerships that identify, encourage and support outstanding college men and women who are preparing for careers in the agriculture and food industry. For more information about AFA, visit www.agfuture.org.

Date: 2/18/2013



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