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Source: National FFA Organization news release

The National FFA Organization has selected 16 students from throughout the United States as finalists for its 2014 top achievement awards: American Star Farmer, American Star in Agribusiness, American Star in Agricultural Placement and American Star in Agriscience.

The American Star Awards represent the best of the best among thousands of American FFA Degree recipients. Recognized are FFA members who have developed outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through supervised agricultural experience (SAE) programs; earned an American FFA Degree, the highest level of achievement the organization bestows upon a member; and met agricultural education, leadership and scholarship requirements.

The American FFA Degree recognition program is co-sponsored by ADM Crop Risk Service, Case IH, Elanco, Farm Credit, DuPont Pioneer and Syngenta as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

The finalists include:

American Star Farmer

Alan Barka
, Litchfield FFA Chapter (Minnesota) - Barka owns a dairy cattle operation, in which he manages and sells the milk produced.

Josh Stutrud, Rugby FFA Chapter (North Dakota) - Stutrud manages his own diversified agricultural livestock and grain operation of beef cattle, alfalfa and corn.

Zach Weichel, Cordell FFA Chapter (Oklahoma) - Weichel operates his beef and grain production, where he markets and sells his feeder cattle and wheat crop.

Thomas Michael Allen, Reedsburg FFA Chapter (Wisconsin) - Allen breeds, raises, and markets dairy cattle and then sells his livestock at shows and sales.

American Star in Agribusiness

Jared A. Eilertson
, United South Central FFA Chapter (Minnesota) - Eilertson operates his own custom hay bailing, ditch-hay sales and agricultural commodities trucking enterprises.

Dustin Stanton, Centralia FFA Chapter (Missouri) - Stanton owns Stanton Brothers, a poultry operation that supplies fresh eggs to community members, local businesses and farmers markets.

Ethan VanderWal, Sioux Valley FFA Chapter (South Dakota) - VanderWal started a custom round hay bailing and rolling business, where he provides services to customers in his community.

Thomas Larson, Viroqua FFA Chapter (Wisconsin) - Larson created a business for repairing machinery and re-selling fixed items, including chainsaws, weed eaters, lawnmowers and more.

American Star in Agricultural Placement

Travis A. Poppe
, Crofton FFA Chapter (Nebraska) - Poppe works for his family's farm, Poppe Farms, where he manages swine and cattle and operates the diversified crop production of corn and soybeans.

Garrett Sharp, Waukomis FFA Chapter (Oklahoma) - Sharp operates and services equipment, moving and preparing land and implements conservation practices while being employeed at his uncle's farm.

Matt Eichacker, McCook Central FFA Chapter (South Dakota) - Eichacker operates corn and soybean productions, manages beef cattle and applies fertilizers and chemicals for two farms and a cooperative.

Jessica Woodworth, Mineral County FFA Chapter (West Virginia) - Woodworth works for her family's farm and store. While there, she assists in the beef cattle, swine and produce operations and sells retail meat cuts, fruits, vegetables and other products.

American Star in Agriscience

Patrik Arkfeld
, Syracuse-Dunbar-Avoca FFA Chapter (Nebraska) - Arkfeld conducts swine research in meat quality, genetics, waste management and more.

Sarah Cox, Zane Trace FFA Chapter (Ohio) - Cox studies animal and food sciences through research projects including zooenotic diseases, plant diseases and microorganisms.

Katie Osborn, Greenwood FFA Chapter (Pennsylvania) - Osborn has performed four studies in dairy cattle mastitis, an infection in the udders.

Witney L. Bowman, Stonewall Jackson FFA Chapter (Virginia) - Bowman studies the effects of feeding calves additional milk replacer and injecting rooting hormones in Juniper trees.

Each star finalist receives $2,000 from the National FFA Foundation.

A panel of judges will interview finalists and select one winner for each award at the 87th National FFA Convention & Expo, Oct. 29 - Nov. 1, in Louisville, Ky. The four winners will receive an additional $2,000 and be announced at the convention and expo's eighth general session , as part of the Stars Over America Pagent and before the American FFA Degree Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 1.

The Stars Over America is a special audiovisual presentation featuring the star award finalists funded as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 579,678 student members as part of 7,570 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Visit for more information about the American Star Awards.

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