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A National Dialogue for the Future of America's Waterway

Weigh In On Mississippi River Solutions
The National Geographic News' article about Use and Abuse of the Mississippi River Basin in the context of U.S. agriculture hit a nerve. Writer Sally Deneen carefully explains the issue. We have the Mississippi River Watershed, a national source for water for habitat, cities, and recreation, also serving as the world's most productive food producer. Deneen gets to the crux of the matter:
River Currents Newsletter February 2012
  • Four out of every 10 ears of corn in the world are grown in the Mississippi River water shed.
  • The "lion's share" of the U.S. corn, grain, livestock, poultry, cotton, sorghum and soy is grown there.
  • The U.S. is the biggest net exporter of "virtual water" due to its agricultural sales.
How do we reconcile these two roles - protecting water quality while continuing to produce a large share of the country's - as well as the world's - food?

Deneen cites some solutions: If farmers in the water shed could recognize the effects of growing, say, alfalfa for part of every other year, nitrates in ground water would be substantially reduced. The challenge: alfalfa doesn't bring as much return on investment as corn and soybeans.

Another solution: Some winter crops, like rye, would take in nitrogen and hold it. The challenge: nitrogen fertilizer is cheaper than planting another crop.

Minnesota is experimenting with yet another possible solution: self regulation by agribusiness.

What do you think some solutions could be?

We're taking a brief poll as a starting point to a national discussion. We'd like to know what you think might be done to address this important Mississippi River water shed issue. There are other issues we'll be seeking your input on. For now, participate in our poll, and start the dialogue for the future of America's Waterway here.

Please click here to take our poll!
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