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Efforts to improve Mississippi River water quality

Farmers and ag trade groups show commitment to reducing runoff in the Mississippi River basin.

Rachel Schutte

December 14, 2021

2 Min Read
Mississippi River at dawn in Missouri

During the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a framework for states to address phosphorus and nitrogen runoff. The framework called upon state agencies to bring together a range of stakeholders to develop and implement strategies to protect water quality.

A recent report by the Agricultural Nutrient Policy Council details the work of farmers to improve water quality issues along the Mississippi River Basin.

The primary purpose of this report is to draw attention to the work of farmers across the MRB in implementing nutrient reduction strategies and to highlight the efforts of the ag trade associations that support them in doing so.

ANPC’s report highlights the work of farmers in 16 states based on interviews with state ag trade groups and demonstrates agriculture’s commitment to protecting the environment while growing safe, affordable food.

In addition to numerous initiatives taking place at the state level throughout the MRB, regional and national efforts are also contributing to improved water quality.

Hypoxia Task Force

In 1997, the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force was established to understand the causes and effects of hypoxia and to coordinate strategies to address it. The HTF 2008 Action Plan called on states to develop nitrogen and phosphorus reduction strategies in watershed areas with significant nutrient contributions to surface waters. Each HTF state has designated priority watersheds as part of their nutrient reduction strategy.

Section 319 grant program        

Another initiative on the national level is the EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 319 grant program. The program provides federal agency focus to guide and support state and local efforts. Since 1990, the program has provided almost $5 billion in support to state, tribal and local projects.

Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative

The Natural Resource Conservation Service supports farmer adoption of conservation practices on farms in the MRB. The programs are highly oversubscribed, signaling a high degree of farmer interest in taking part. NRCS has crafted the Healthy Watersheds Initiative to use Farm bill programs to support farmer adoption of water quality improving practices in small watersheds.

Read more about state, regional and national initiative to reduce nutrient losses in the Mississippi River Basin here.  

About the Author(s)

Rachel Schutte

Content Producer, Farm Futures

Rachel grew up in central Wisconsin and earned a B.S. in soil and crop science from the University of Wisconsin - Platteville. Before joining the Farm Futures team, Rachel spent time in the field as an agronomist before transitioning to the world of marketing and communications. She now resides in northeast Iowa where she enjoys raising bottle calves and farming corn and soybeans alongside her husband and his family.

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