Here’s a checklist for college students living on a limited budget — start brain; write words; pick up $6,000 in winnings. But you better get moving if you want the cash. The deadline for the Future of Southern Agriculture Student Essay Contest is rapidly approaching.

The essay contest, sponsored by Syngenta Crop Protection and Farm Press Publications, is open to all students enrolled at a university with an accredited agriculture program.

We will award a total of $20,000 to winning entries — two $6,000 winners and two $4,000 winners. This year’s essay subject focuses on water management and conservation in southern agriculture.

Participating universities have been divided into two regions. Region I includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia (south of I-64). Region II includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri (south of I-70), New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

One undergraduate essay and one graduate essay from each region will advance to the national final. Of the four finalists, the undergraduate essay and the graduate essay writers with the highest cumulative score will be awarded $6,000, and the runners up will each receive $4,000.

To enter, submit an essay of 750 to 1,000 words on the following subject: Farmers are under constant pressure to produce more food, feed and fiber with fewer resources. A prime example of a precious resource that continues to diminish in supply in some areas is water. The droughts of recent years and increased demand for water have forced some Southern producers and the industry in general to increase focus on conservation and sustainability. Describe how the Southern farmer and the agricultural industry as a whole can more effectively manage water usage in growing and processing food, feed and fiber. Who (growers, government regulatory agencies, commodity organizations, seed companies, others?) will motivate these changes and how?

Essays and entry forms must be submitted electronically. For complete information on the contest go to www.FutureofSouthernAg.com. For a list of grand prize and honorary prize winners, check the site after Aug. 18. Contest information and links can also be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=60127478560

Essays are being accepted online now through April 15, 11:59 p.m. CST. Judging will take place May through early July, and winners will be announced in August.