Monsanto, Groups Combine Efforts to Protect Mississippi River

A new initiative announced on Dec. 8 aims to reduce nutrient and sediment movement into the largest U.S. river system, the Mississippi River. Monsanto is partnering with multiple agricultural and conservation groups that are working with farmers to help reduce runoff from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Nature Conservancy, the Iowa Soybean Association and Delta Wildlife, are all working collaboratively with farmers to remove nutrients and sediment from agricultural runoff in the Mississippi River Basin. The National Audubon Society is working with homeowners and others to implement measures that can improve wildlife habitat and the quality of water entering the Mississippi River. The new initiative by Monsanto will advance the group's work and help determine the effectiveness of various conservation measures on improving wildlife habitat and water quality. 

"The Mississippi River is an ecological treasure and an economic powerhouse," said Michael Reuter, who oversees The Nature Conservancy's Great Rivers Partnership. "This new effort by Monsanto will help show how we can make farming and conservation in the Mississippi River Basin more compatible so that nature and people alike benefit from improved water quality and enhanced wildlife habitat."

"We're proud to work on this bold conservation initiative which we believe offers a sustainable vision for agricultural landscapes wherein farmers can support our world's growing needs for food, fiber, and fuel in ways that not only preserve water quality but also support diverse and abundant wildlife populations," said Jerry Steiner, executive vice president at Monsanto. "We believe this initiative can serve as an important stepping stone toward the goal of preserving natural resources and wildlife in the Mississippi River Basin for future generations."

"Farmers are emerging in key leadership roles through their investments and by participating in the planning and implementation of practices that perform environmentally. It's our goal to support them and help them make meaningful progress," said Roger Wolf, Director of Environmental Programs at the Iowa Soybean Association. "Our goal is to use science -- research and data -- to systematically develop and implement a suite of management techniques that help production agriculture measurably improve stewardship while maintaining or increasing profitability." 

The Nature Conservancy will conduct a three-year conservation pilot in four watersheds in the Upper Mississippi River basin that include the Root River in southeastern Minnesota, the Pecatonica River in southern Wisconsin, the Boone River in northern Iowa, and the Mackinaw River in central Illinois. The Conservancy will work with local partners, including farmers, in those watersheds to implement and study conservation techniques that best lower nutrient and sediment concentrations by reducing runoff from agricultural landscapes. Through this project, the Conservancy will seek to determine which tools work best in a larger, sub-watershed system and will then communicate findings to crop producers to guide their farm stewardship decisions.

The Iowa Soybean Association will conduct research on paired, micro watersheds in two areas: the Boone and Raccoon Rivers. The group will also coordinate conservation outreach in those watersheds, which includes monitoring, measurement, and evaluation of on-farm resources and environmental outcomes.

Delta Wildlife will install Best Management Practices (BMPs) on approximately 1,000 sites on working farms in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta region of the Lower Mississippi Valley. BMPs will be designed to reduce off-site movement of nutrients and sediments while providing secondary environmental benefits in the form of improved fish and wildlife habitat and water conservation. The project will include a monitoring and assessment component that will thoroughly document accrued environmental benefits.

Data from all projects will be reported annually and are expected to generate novel approaches that can be implemented more broadly across rural landscapes. Crop producers will be directly involved in the respective projects. Findings from all projects will be shared with farmers regularly so that they can observe and adapt cultural practices that preserve water quality and improve wildlife habitat.

Monsanto will commit more than $5 million to support all of the projects. Monsanto will also work actively with all groups to share data generated from all projects with its farmer customers. The company will also encourage on-farm adoption of management practices that contribute to water quality.

Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association also announced that they will be forming a Mississippi River Farm Nutrient Working Group. The group expects to engage other agricultural-related interests, government leaders, and other interested organizations in this group. Additional information on this group will be announced in spring 2009.