Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week a new initiative to improve water quality and the overall health of the Mississippi River Basin funded by $320 million over the next four years for voluntary projects in watersheds locations in 12 key states.
“The Obama Administration is committed to cleaning up the entire Mississippi River Basin, a critical natural resource that provides drinking water for tens of millions of Americans,” said Vilsack.
The Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) will help agricultural producers implement conservation and management practices that avoid or control fertilizer runoff that chokes marine life with its algae blooms and dearth of oxygen.
These funds will be available for projects in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
The vast river basin is a critical ecosystem to the United States: Its land mass totals 41 percent of the contiguous United States, draining into the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.
The Mississippi River runs 2,350 miles from its headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico and carries an average of 436,000 tons of sediment each day.
Assessment of the progress in implementing MRBI will be critical. Successful measures of the initiative will include a reduced nutrient footprint and environmental impact through more efficient use of nutrients for crop production in the priority watersheds.
For information about the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, including eligibility requirements, please visit www.nrcs.usda.gov or your USDA Service Center.