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* Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education

November 16, 2007

Purdue Agriculture students debate rural economy

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Team Penner, a group of students from agricultural education and agricultural communication, won the Nov. 8 Townsend Outstanding Communicator in Agriculture Debate Competition at Purdue University.

The topic for this year's debate was whether the future of Indiana's rural economy depends on agriculture. Second place went to team JCD, composed of students from animal science and forestry and natural resources. The competition was open to student teams in the College of Agriculture.

Arguing for the importance of agriculture to the state's rural economy, Team Penner consisted of Christy Penner of North Manchester, Ashley Bechman of Franklin and David Mohler of Lebanon. The JCD team consisted of Jessica Cummins of Connersville and Cullen Deady of Downers Grove, Ill., who argued against Indiana's rural economy being based on agriculture.

All participants conducted research, interviews and collected resources in support of both sides of the issue. Neither team knew until a few minutes before the debate whether they were to argue for or against the topic.

"All debate teams did a wonderful job, and I was very impressed with their research and arguments," said Natalie Federer, agricultural communication academic adviser and the debate's coordinator. "Each team approached the topic in a different way, from economics and technology to environmental, social and community issues."

Speaker points were given throughout the day for each participant based on speaking ability, attitude, voice, eye contact and argument content.

Team Penner received $750, along with a trophy. The second place team received $500. The speaker award went to team Penner member Mohler, who received $100 and a plaque

"I really enjoyed competing in the Townsend Debate, and I found it to be very rewarding," Penner said. "I learned a great deal about Indiana's rural economy and more about persuasive public speaking."

"After leaving high school, I thought I would never have the chance to do competitive debate again until I received an e-mail about the 2007 Townsend Debate competition," Deady said. "I was immediately interested and ecstatic to not only have the chance to participate in debate once again, but to also debate a topic that deals with my area of study."

Judges for the final debate were: Sam Cordes, co-director of the Center for Regional Development and assistant director and program leader for Economic and Community Development for Purdue Extension; Matt Harrod, assistant director of policy and research for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture; Mike Baise, director of issues management for Indiana Farm Bureau; and Dave Blower, editor of Farm World.

Funding for the debate competition is provided by Wayne Townsend, a College of Agriculture alumnus, farmer and former politician.

Writer: Natalie Federer, (765) 494-8406,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes,
Agriculture News Page

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