The second annual student essay contest sponsored by Syngenta Crop Protection and Farm Press Publications is upping the ante and expanding into more states.

The Future of Southern Agriculture Student Essay Contest is now offering a total of $20,000 in scholarship awards to winning entries. Four prizes will be awarded with two $6,000 winners and two $4,000 winners. In addition, the contest will expand to now include 11 universities from the Southeast, Mid-South and Texas.

Participating universities have been divided into two regions — 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.

Michael Boden, head of the Syngenta Southern Field Crops business unit, said Syngenta “is pleased to be a sponsor of the Future of Southern Ag Student Essay Contest. We are committed to the southern agricultural industry and its future success, and additionally, we support and promote education of students with links to the industry.

“It is our goal to build on the momentum established last year with the Future of Delta Cotton Student Essay Contest. We are asking students to share their vision of the future of southern agriculture and what steps should be taken now to turn this vision into reality.

“We encourage all graduate and undergraduate students at the eligible universities across the southern region to visit the Future of Southern Ag Web site for more information and to submit their essay online.”

“We are proud to be a sponsor of the Future of Southern Agriculture Student Essay Contest,” added Farm Press Editor Elton Robinson. “Asking students to share their ideas is a novel way to identify new perspectives and create debate that could help shape the future of southern agriculture.”

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.

Essays and entry forms must be submitted electronically. For complete information on the contest go to Future of Southern Ag.

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. Judges will include Farm Press editors Elton Robinson, Delta Farm Press, Paul Hollis of Southeast Farm Press, Ron Smith with Southwest Farm Press and other industry experts.