'State of Our River' event asks how we can protect, restore the Mississippi

Rep. Betty McCollum stands on the lefthand side of the frame, speaking into a microphone. Four panel participants sit at a table behind her. One of them is FMR Executive Director Whitney Clark.

Rep. Betty McCollum, left, introduces the four participants of the event's stakeholder panel: Shelley Buck with Friends of the Falls, Whitney Clark with FMR, Lee Nelson with Upper River Services, and Gary Wertish with Minnesota Farmers Union. (Photo by the office of Rep. Betty McCollum)

What are the most serious threats to the Mississippi River? And just as importantly, what can we do both now and in the future to ensure it is healthy and vibrant?

Those questions were top of mind at a Mississippi River summit put on by Rep. Betty McCollum last month. The “State of Our River: Mississippi River Dialogue” event brought together more than a dozen experts representing varied governments, groups and organizations to explore the most pressing issues currently being faced. 

FMR Executive Director Whitney Clark participated in the stakeholders panel portion, and used part of his time to talk about the positive impact clean-water crops could have on the river. Because those crops can provide continuous living cover on agricultural land, they have the power to significantly reduce erosion, runoff and leaching — serious threats not just to the Mississippi River, but nearly all of Minnesota's waterways.

State and federal officials have recognized this. 

Minnesota lawmakers approved vital funding for crop research and market development in 2022, and appear set to expand on that commitment again this session. Gov. Tim Walz's administration acknowledged the power of these types of sustainable farming practices in the Climate Action Framework introduced last fall.

And advancing clean-water crops is a key focus of the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative (also known as MRRRI), which Rep. McCollum — as the act's lead author — continues to champion. 

"We need to work together to solve these problems," McCollum, who represents Minnesota's 4th Congressional District, wrote following the March 16 event. "That is why this Congress I will be reintroducing the Mississippi River Resilience and Restoration Initiative, the MRRRI Act, to create a coordinated federal effort to support the River."

FMR was grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this event, and to all participants for engaging in an in-depth, solutions-focused discussion on the health of the Mississippi River. 

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