Gerald Bange, chairperson of the World Agricultural Outlook Board, will be the featured speaker at North Carolina’s third annual Agricultural Development Forum on Thursday, Jan. 31, at the State Fairgrounds.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler will be host of the forum, which will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Holshouser Building. Farmers, agribusiness professionals and others interested in U.S. farm policy are invited. Admission is free and lunch will be provided.

Bange will offer his assessment of the 2008 economic outlook for agriculture. As chairperson of the World Board, Bange is responsible for the monthly forecasts of the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report and also oversees the Joint Agricultural Weather Facility.

Other forum topics will include alternative fuels and drought. Speakers will include John Ganzi, president of the Biofuels Center of North Carolina, and Jeff Orrock, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

A panel consisting of North Carolina State University Economist Arnie Oltmans and representatives of the animal, cotton, green and forestry sectors of the state’s ag industry will discuss challenges and opportunities for the state’s farmers.

In addition, representatives of North Carolina’s power companies will talk about renewable energy.

A complete agenda is available online at www.ncagr.com.

The forum is sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Duke Energy, North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, Progress Energy, the North Carolina State Grange, AgCarolina Financial, Cape Fear Farm Credit and Carolina Farm Credit.