On Monday Monsanto and several other groups came together to announce a collaboration that will help protect the Mississippi River Basin and those that depend on it for drinking water, wildlife that depend on it for their survival and farmers who depend on it for their livelihood.
"This landmark initiative joins Monsanto with committed conservation groups and grower associations," says Jerry Steiner, executive vice president of corporate affairs for Monsanto. "This undertaking will explore different conservation measures that will reduce nutrients and sediment in agricultural runoff from entering the watersheds, as well as support programs that work with farmers and consumers to improve wildlife habitat along the Mississippi River."
In June 2008 Monsanto committed to help farmers produce more while conserving more as part of its Sustainable Yield Initiative. Steiner says this project is a great example of how in partnership with others precious resources can be conserved in agriculturally important areas while meeting global while meeting global demand.
Monsanto has committed about $5 million to fund the programs that will be carried out by the Nature Conservancy, the Iowa Soybean Association, Audubon Society, and Delta Wildlife. In addition to the funding, Steiner says Monsanto is playing a role in trying to pull together many parallel efforts so a greater level of benefits can be obtained through the integration and communication of the various efforts.
Among the projects being funded are a three-year conservation pilot program by the Nature Conservancy on four watersheds on the Upper Mississippi River, the Iowa Soybean Association will conduct research on paired micro watersheds, and Delta Wildlife will install best management practices on about 1000 sites in the Lower Mississippi Valley.
Roughly $3 million is going toward the efforts of the Nature Conservancy, $400,000 to the Iowa Soybean Association, $1.5 million to Delta Wildlife and $300,000 to the Audubon Society to fund their projects over the next few years. Data from the projects will be reported annually.
"Measuring the effectiveness of this leads us to the right solutions and it gives us collectively the proven practices that we then will want to try to replicate on a much larger scale," says Michael Reuter of the Nature Conservancy. "Ideally in three years we'd have some very strong examples of success on the ground, but we'd also have this group of people and others on the same page with what has happened and what is working."
Communicating the findings to farmers so they can adopt practices is a major goal of the initiative.
"We really are seeking to have very broad involvement of the farm organizations, and then therefore they can use their regular communications with their members to get this out there," Steiner says. "Plus I think we want to explore a variety of methods such as Extension as well as using the Internet to get to many, many people. So the clear goal here is that we can leverage the learning from this project and get it out to the people that can make a difference on reducing the nutrient flow."