It’s time to stop procrastinating and get serious about entering the Future of Southern Agriculture Student Essay Contest sponsored by Syngenta Crop Protection and Farm Press Publications.

With just two weeks left until the April 15 deadline, the motivation is easy β€” deposit up to $6,000 in your bank account by this fall for just a few hours of mental exercise today.

A total of $20,000 will be awarded to winning entries β€” consisting of two $6,000 winners and two $4,000 winners. In addition, the contest has expanded to include 11 universities from the Mid-South, Southeast and Texas.

To enter, submit an essay of 750 to 1,000 words on the following subject: By 2050, the world’s population is expected to increase to more than 9 billion, up from the estimated 6.7 billion as of January 2009. Taking into account commodity price fluctuations and variable input prices, what is the best agricultural business model to deal with this environment? How can the U.S. southern farmer continue to compete in the export markets and/or against foreign imports to sustain agriculture as a viable business? What processes should be put into place to ensure the safety, quality and availability of U.S. food, feed and fiber production?

All undergraduate and graduate students currently enrolled for the spring 2009 semester at Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University, University of Arkansas, University of Tennessee, University of Missouri, Texas A&M University, Auburn University, University of Georgia, Clemson University, Virginia Tech University and North Carolina State University are eligible to apply.

Participating universities have been divided into two regions β€” Southeast and Delta/Southwest. 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.

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. 15.

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 determined in late July.