Forum Provides Information About Alternative Profits in Agriculture

State and national experts and leaders, including Gov. Bill Owens, U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary J.B. Penn and Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Don Ament will speak at the annual Agricultural Outlook Forum on Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Renaissance Denver Hotel.

The forum, themed "New Realities, New Opportunities," will provide agriculturalists with opportunities to explore alternative sources for profit, such as ethanol, biodiesel and agritainment opportunities. On-site registration begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by opening remarks by Owens and Ament at 8:30 a.m.

State and national experts featured at this year’s forum will discuss topics such as ethanol and biodiesel fuel development, agritainment opportunities such as corn mazes and non-traditional profit opportunities around organic farming direct consumer marketing, value-added commodities, niche markets and fishing and hunting leases. In addition, experts will provide context about the future of agriculture in Colorado such as how the industry will be impacted by international competition.

Penn is undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Prior to that appointment, Penn’s government experience includes service as deputy administrator for economics of the USDA’s Economics and Statistics Service and as senior staff economist for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

     Mike Pacheco, director of the National BioEnergy Center, will discuss how bio-based energy products can be developed to provide additional and alternative income opportunities. The center was formed by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2000 and is part of the department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. The center provides information about and develops technology to support bioenergy projects in the United States. Before joining the center, Pacheco worked for various energy companies including Amoco and Conoco Oil, and he oversaw efforts to commercialize biocatalytic processes for Energy Biosystems Corp.

     Ken Root, a syndicated agricultural broadcaster and columnist, also will be a presenter. Root, a former vocational agriculture teacher, began a farm broadcasting career in 1974 and has covered local, national and international agricultural issues for media outlets. In 1994, Root hosted AgriTalk, the first interactive talk radio show for agriculture in rural America. The program, which was broadcasted through 125 stations in 28 states, addressed traditional farming topics as well as topics including rural mental health, social and political issues. While no longer hosting AgriTalk, Root is an active professional speaker and currently writes a syndicated column about rural and agricultural issues.  

     Additional agenda highlights include an agricultural water summit report from John Stencel, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union; a panel discussion about direct consumer marketing; a panel discussion about agricultural-related entertainment and tourism opportunities; and sessions on organic production and energy production. An update about current legislative issues also will be provided.

     The forum is preceded by a reception at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Early registration is $90 if received by Feb. 10. Late registration and registration at the door is $115. Registration is available at the event, or to register or for more information, visit the Web at or call 303-239-4100.

     The forum is followed by the 17th Annual Colorado Agricultural Hall of Fame Banquet and Recognition program, hosted by the Future Farmers of America. Registration for that event is separate from the forum, and information is available at (970) 249-1465 or

The annual forum is sponsored by Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Associates.