For the Capital Press

PULLMAN, Wash. -- Future farm leaders will tackle many complex agricultural issues at the 83rd Washington State FFA Convention here May 9-11.

Besides electing officers and conferring awards, 40 contests will be conducted. Twenty chapters will compete in Friday's Ag Issues contest in which competing students will hone their public speaking skills.

Ag Issues Coordinator Kathy Meyer said chapters will address issues they identified earlier in the year, developing unbiased presentations and conducting community educational programs on their topic.

The purpose is to help FFA members learn to examine both sides of issues. Teams of 3-6 members research their topic, conduct Local educational meetings and document participation in a portfolio.

After competing in sub-district and district competition teams that advance submit portfolios to the state for judging. Portfolios account for 17 percent of the score. Friday morning three preliminary rounds will be conducted. Three finalists will compete Friday afternoon.

Presentations take many forms and may include mock public meetings, radio talk shows or forums. Almost all incorporate PowerPoint presentations.

Among the issues to be discussed are genetically modified foods, Agenda 21, use of antibiotics and hormones in animals, gillnet use on the Lower Columbia River and whether wolves are a threat to Washington communities.

Ag Issues is one of 23 Career Development Events conducted during the convention. The object is to build skills for future careers. There also are other contests, such as State FFA Citizenship and Star State Farmer.

Some 2,300 FFA students are expected to participate in this year's convention, which will be held in Washington State University's Beasley Coliseum.

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