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Essay winners lay out cotton’s future

The grand prize winners of the Future of Delta Cotton Student Essay Contest took completely different approaches in describing their visions of tomorrow’s cotton industry. But they do share one thing — they both hail from Louisiana State University.

Michael Ferro, a Ph.D. student from Missouri and Matthew Turner, who grew up on a cotton farm in Mer Rouge, La., will receive awards of $2,500 each.

Six honorary winners will receive $1,000 each for a total of $11,000 in prizes. They are John Smith and Tyler Dixon of Mississippi State University, Frances Free and Zoe Teague of the University of Arkansas and Jason Head and Jessica Jarrell of the University of Tennessee.

The online student writing contest is sponsored by Syngenta Crop Protection and Delta Farm Press.

Entries were submitted by students from LSU, MSU UA, and UT in undergraduate and graduate categories. Judging took place from May through July and the winning entries were announced in August. All winning essays are available online at

“The essay contest was designed to create ideas among young people on how to deal with serious challenges to Delta cotton production from high grain prices, high fuel and fertility costs and changes in market destinations,” said Elton Robinson, editor of Delta Farm Press. “The students presented wonderfully diverse views on what the cotton industry can do to help insure its future viability. The judging process really made me feel good about the young people coming up through the ranks.”

Essay judge Chad Steiner, cotton crop manager, Syngenta Crop Protection, said that reading through the Future of Delta Cotton essays, “makes you rest assured that cotton’s future will be in good hands. The student essays made it apparent that our incoming generations of leaders are still very interested in the cotton industry, are loaded with fresh ideas and energy to help keep it alive.

“One of the winning essays was very interesting as it talked about ‘sustainable production’ and what the cotton industry will look like in the year 2040. The essay had very specific ideas and brought forth very realistic challenges in an easy-to-swallow tone.

“One picture the author painted was our need to make better use of inputs. That is definitely a fair challenge. All we need to do is bottle the ideas and enthusiasm from the essays for all of us to tap into when we need a dose of optimism.”

Essay judge Marjorie Walker, director of communications, production and audio visual services for the National Cotton Council, noted, “Honestly, I was so surprised by the understanding of the industry that I clearly saw articulated in some of them. And the research was amazing, as was the ability to look ahead.”

Sandy Stewart, Extension cotton specialist, Louisiana State University AgCenter, said, “I was very impressed with the winning essays and proud to have seen that they came from LSU. They showed a lot of creativity to say the least. Overall, as a judge, you could definitely tell that a lot of thought, work and effort had gone into every essay. All of the participants should be commended.”


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