The third annual student essay contest sponsored by Syngenta Crop Protection and Farm Press Publications has expanded to 14 states and now includes all students enrolled at a university with an accredited agriculture program.

The Future of Southern Agriculture Student Essay Contest will award $20,000 to winning entries. Four prizes will be awarded with two $6,000 winners and two $4,000 winners. This year’s essay subject focuses on water management and conservation in southern agriculture.

“Syngenta is incredibly excited to continue our partnership with Farm Press and sponsor the Future of Southern Ag student essay contest,” said Michael Boden, head of the Syngenta Southern Field Crops business unit. “With expansion this year to include all universities with accredited agriculture programs in the designated regions, we look forward to representation from many new schools and strong competition from scholarship-seeking students.

“This year’s essay topic is especially important to our sustainability efforts at Syngenta, and we are eager to read the creative and thoughtful responses the future leaders of our Southern ag industry will suggest.”

“Water is our most precious natural resource, and just like our crop commodities, it can be in under-supply and over-supply at any given time,” added Elton Robinson, editor of Delta Farm Press. “The essays could shed light on possible water management techniques of the future.”

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 http://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.

Judges for Region I are Jim Arnold, direction of communications, Helena Chemical Co., Paul Hollis, editor, Southeast Farm Press and Erika Osmundson, marketing and communications manager, AgCareers.com.

Judges for Region II are Trey Cooke, executive director, Delta Wildlife and Delta F.A.R.M., Elton Robinson, editor, Delta Farm Press and Marjorie Walker, director of communications, National Cotton Council.

Judges for the final selection are Jennifer Shaw, head of sustainability, Syngenta, Ron Smith, editor, Southwest Farm Press and Mike Strain commissioner, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.