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Natalie Johnston vying for Minnesota Pork Ambassador title

Stevens County Pork Ambassador Natalie Johnston

The 2012 Minnesota Pork Ambassador and the first and second runners-up will be selected Wednesday, Aug. 3 at Farmfest. The public is encouraged to attend the program. The pork ambassador candidates will be introduced and the winners announced at a special 11:50 a.m. program in the Forum Tent. Program emcee will be farm broadcaster Lynn Ketelsen of the Linder Farm Network.

A three-judge panel will select the top three individuals from a field of 17 county pork ambassadors. The candidate judging takes place on Aug. 1-3 and the process includes a personal interview with the judges, public presentation on a swine-related topic, written essay and group activity.

Johnston's essay is titled, "Pigs: Not Just a Pork Chop."

Johnston is pursuing a degree in animal science at the University of Minnesota, preparing for a career in animal health and pharmaceuticals. Her experiences in FFA and 4-H influenced her career choice and her ability to set and achieve goals. The programs have instilled organizational, problem-solving, leadership and communication skills and fueled her passion for animal agriculture. "The lessons I have learned in these activities will help me become successful in achieving my educational, professional and personal goals," she said. Johnston says the pork industry is an exciting and vibrant segment of Minnesota agriculture, resulting in her desire to promote pork and educate others. The state pork ambassador post would provide her opportunities to learn more about pork products and production methods and to promote Minnesota pig farmers. Johnston says international pork trade is a challenge that the pork industry needs to continually pursue and maintain because 25 percent of U.S. pork production is exported. While the export market is beneficial to U.S. pork producers' profitability, it requires vigilance to maintain stability in the countries that buy U.S. pork and to monitor for potential export market threats.

The Minnesota Pork Ambassador and runners-up will represent the state's 4,000 pork producing families at various educational and promotional functions throughout the year. The top placing individual earns a $1,500 scholarship, and first and second runners-up receive $750 and $500 scholarships, respectively. Judges also recognize the writer of the best essay with a $250 scholarship and the ambassadors will select a congeniality winner.

The public is also encouraged to attend the pork ambassador candidates' public presentations from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 2, in the Minnesota Soybean/Minnesota Pork Tent (exhibitor #618).

Johnston's presentation will be at 3:15 p.m.