The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) is calling upon seventh to twelfth grade students to submit an original essay of 450 words on the importance of U.S. agriculture. This year's theme is “Growing our energy: Alternative fuels from agriculture,” and the deadline for entries is Feb. 15.

Teachers are asked to encourage this year's participating students to focus their essays on the changing face of farming and the U.S. economy as it relates to ethanol, biodiesel and energy issues.

In 2005, nearly 1,200 entries in the nationwide Ag Day Essay Contest focused on the theme “Keep America Bountiful.” Expectations are even higher for 2006.

This year's national winner will receive a $1,000 prize and a roundtrip ticket to Washington, D.C., to be recognized during the March 20 Ag Day Luncheon held at the National Press Club. At the luncheon, the winning essayist will have the opportunity to join with industry representatives, members of Congress, federal agency representatives, media and other friends in a celebration of agriculture. Statewide winners of the contest will also be selected. Each will receive a $100 prize.

This is the 33rd anniversary of National Ag Day. The goal of the ACA is to provide a spotlight on the agriculture, food and fiber industry the first of each spring (National Ag Day), to help consumers understand not only how food and fiber products are produced, but to celebrate accomplishments in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

All entries should be sent to: Ag Day Essay Contest (MC), 1201 NW Briarcliff Pkwy., Ste. 200, Kansas City, MO 64116, or msandfort@mccormickcompany.com.

The Ag Day Essay Contest is sponsored by: DuPont, Case IH, The Council for Agricultural Science & Technology, High Plains Journal, National Association of Farm Broadcasters and National Agri-Marketing Association.