USDA Initiative to Improve Mississippi River Water Quality

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a request for proposals (RFP) from stakeholders in 12 Mississippi River Basin states to engage farmers in high priority watersheds in those states in cooperative efforts to reduce water pollution.

The states are Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. The stakeholders eligible to submit proposals include local and state governments, farm groups, and conservation organizations. Stakeholders have until May 3 to submit proposals to support projects in high priority watersheds in the 12 states.

Through The Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative the Natural Resources Conservation Service and its partners will help producers in selected watersheds in the Mississippi River Basin voluntarily implement conservation practices and systems that avoid, control, and trap nutrient runoff; improve wildlife habitat; and maintain agricultural productivity.

Sara Hopper, agricultural policy director for Environmental Defense Fund, said: "Improving water quality in the river and its tributaries requires a targeted approach that engages farmers and other stakeholders in real solutions. This new initiative is a big step in the right direction."

Among the most significant challenges facing the Mississippi River is the runoff of excess nutrients from manure and commercial fertilizer, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus. While nitrogen and phosphorus are important for crop production, when these nutrients end up in streams, they contribute to both local water quality problems and the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The initiative will leverage funding provided by the 2008 farm bill with resources provided by stakeholders to support projects that will help farmers improve the management of their lands to benefit water quality.

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