Agriculture plays a major role in the economy, society and the environment. The sector faces significant challenges due to rising population growth, declining biodiversity and the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change, such as more frequent extreme weather events and exacerbated water scarcity.

Geopolitical events have added stress to supply chains and led to rising investment costs, price volatility and global trade conflicts. These factors have increased pressure on farms and farmers as the industry already struggles to recruit younger generations and as a rapidly changing field places new demands on professional training. Identifying new ways to face these challenges is essential; an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable agriculture can play a significant role in protecting natural resources, preserving biodiversity, mitigating climate change and ensuring the future prosperity of rural areas.

Both Germany and the U.S. are central to shaping a more resilient agricultural future. Both countries face similar challenges, and fostering a deeper understanding of diverse ag practices and standards is essential to provide joint leadership in shaping the future of agriculture. The U.S.-German Future Forum Agriculture, led by the Aspen Institute Germany in collaboration with implementing partner, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, addresses this need by facilitating dialogue and collaboration between German and U.S. farmers and key stakeholders from research and business.

Through the exchange of experiences, the opportunity to visit best practices on-site and the establishment of new transatlantic networks, this project will promote innovative approaches for the future of agriculture and rural areas.

2024 Cohort Focus

We are accepting applications on a rolling basis until Oct. 31 from cattle ranchers and dairy farmers and other key agricultural stakeholders to apply to be a part of this unique transatlantic dialogue during the second program year in 2024. The regional focus will be on northern Germany (Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein) and the U.S. Northeast (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont). In addition to the fundamental social, economic and political importance of agriculture for rural regions, the second cohort will focus in particular on the core issue of digitalization in dairy farming and cattle ranching.

The integration of digital technologies and data-driven solutions within agriculture is becoming increasingly necessary given their potential to revolutionize farming practices. It has the potential to enhance productivity, reduce labor requirements, promote sustainable research utilization and enable more effective monitoring. However, this digital transformation also poses challenges. The success of digital agriculture relies on the presence of robust digital infrastructure in rural areas and the necessary expertise among farmers.

Moreover, the increasing digitalization of agriculture changes the demands placed on the ag labor force, potentially resulting in job displacement or the emergence of new fields of employment. To thoroughly explore these opportunities and risks, this program will focus on the following questions:

  • What opportunities does digitalization open for optimizing resource usage, reducing environmental and climate impacts, increasing productivity and benefiting cattle ranchers and dairy farmers?
  • How can farmers, consumers and the environment benefit from a digital transformation in the agricultural sector?
  • What are the current hurdles to advancing the digitalization of the ag sector on the ground, and how can these be overcome?
  • How can equal participation in the digital transformation be ensured?
  • How can investments in research and development of new digital technologies be best supported and effectively connected with producers, bridging the gap between research and practice?
  • How can U.S.-European cooperation in the dairy and beef industries be promoted, and how can transatlantic partners better learn from each other’s experiences?
  • How can we overcome longstanding U.S.-European conflicts and differing policy approaches around agriculture to assume a joint global leadership role under the umbrella of the transatlantic partnership?

Program Outline & Benefits of Participation

To explore these questions, the project will give participants the opportunity to engage with international peers and other leaders in the field and shape the transatlantic dialogue on agriculture during in-person and virtual programming, to include:

  • Interactive virtual workshops between February and August 2024 (approximately 15 – 20 hours total)
  • A 3.5-day in-person meeting (not including travel time) in Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, from May 13 – 17, 2024
  • Collaboration on a joint publication of recommendations to be released in September 2024
  • A hybrid (virtual and in-person) closing event in Berlin in September 2024

During the program, participants will learn more about ag practices and policies in each other’s countries, conduct site visits to see best practices and innovative solutions on the ground and explore opportunities for transatlantic collaboration. Participants are expected to actively and consistently contribute to the development of concrete policy recommendations for the national and transatlantic levels, which will be published and presented in a final closing event. Costs for participation (travel, accommodation, meals) will be covered by the project.


Applicants for this exchange program must:

  • Be active farmers and/or work in ag-related business, research, etc.
  • Have at least three years of experience in the field of agriculture
  • Be able to actively participate in all components of the virtual and in-person exchange
  • Be able to participate in the development and publication of recommendations in the form of a publication and a final event
  • Have an interest in transatlantic exchange and the topic of digital transformation and agriculture
  • Have sufficient knowledge of English
  • U.S. applicants must live and work in the Northeast (CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT)

Application Process

To apply, complete the application by the deadline of Oct. 31:

If you have any questions, contact Katja Greeson at