CORVALLIS - High school students throughout Oregon are invited to showcase their writing skills in a statewide essay contest sponsored by the Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom program. Entrants will be judged on their ability to write persuasively about the importance of agriculture to everyday life.

The program is a non-profit organization headquartered at Oregon State University.

"We hope this contest will create a positive learning experience, one that promotes reading, creative skills, an expanded vocabulary, and furthers the understanding of agriculture in our lives," said program director Tami Kerr. "Food and fiber, produced by today's farmers, are essential to society. It is important that the public understand the industry and how relevant it is to their lives. More than 15 percent of the U.S. population is employed in farm or farm-related jobs."

The essay contest is sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Oregon, which will provide "Got Milk" sweatshirts and other prizes to the top three entries in each grade and cash awards to their teachers ranging from $100 to $50 for use in their classrooms, and plaques to display in their schools. The contest has been developed so it can easily be incorporated into CIM/CAM requirements.

Students can choose from one of four essay topics. Subjects are how modern production agriculture contributes to a safe and healthy food supply; water and agriculture issues; how agriculture affects students and their communities; and issues in biofuels, such as wind, ethanol, biodiesel, and solar.

All Oregon students in grades 9-12 are invited to submit essays of 500 to 1,000 words. Winning entries will be published in the Capital Press, a weekly agriculture newspaper, during National Agriculture Week, March 20-25.

To review contest rules visit the program's website, Entries, which must be postmarked by March 1, should be mailed to: Tami Kerr; 105 Ballard Extension Hall; Oregon State University; Corvallis, OR 97331.

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Tami Kerr, 541-737-8629