The Mississippi River Basin is the world’s fourth-largest drainage basin, covering more than 1,245,000 square miles and 32 states, the equivalent of about 40% of the continental United States. The watershed is dominated by agriculture — primarily corn, soy and wheat production — and collectively makes up more than 90% of all U.S. agricultural exports. The river also provides drinking water for nearly 20 million people.

Throughout the Spring of 2019, severe flooding in the Mississippi River basin inflicted billions of dollars in damages to farmers, agribusinesses, and meat companies reliant on the production and transportation of commodities throughout America’s farm belt. Additionally, hypoxic ‘dead zones’, which form annually at the mouths of watersheds within the basin, reached record sizes as a result of farm pollution exacerbated by extreme weather events. The U.S. Geological Survey traced 156,000 metric tons of nitrogen—about 18% above the long-term average—and 25,300 metric tons of phosphorus—about 49% above the long-term average— that flowed into the Gulf of Mexico in May 2019 alone.

Companies and investors have a unique opportunity to respond to water risks in their operations and supply chains within the Mississippi River Basin, advocate for sustainable and resilient water policies, and ensure sustainable management of the basin’s water supplies.

Mississippi River Basin

 

[1,2,3] “Mississippi River Facts.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d., https://www.nps.gov/miss/riverfacts.htm.

[4] Kiprop, Victor. “What Region of the United States Is Corn Production Prevalent?” WorldAtlas, 28 Sept. 2017, https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-region-of-the-united-states-is-corn-production-prevalent.html.

[5] Gallegos, Jenna. “The Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone Is Larger than Ever. Here's What to Do about It.” The Washington Post, 4 Aug. 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/08/04/gulf-of-mexico-dead-zone-is-larger-than-ever-heres-what-to-do-about-it/.

[6] Newman, Jesse, and Jacob Bunge. “Floods Swamp U.S. Farm Belt.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 23 May 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/floods-swamp-u-s-farm-belt-11558603802.

[7] Van Dam, Andrew, et al. “After a Biblical Spring, This Is the Week That Could Break the Corn Belt.” The Washington Post, 4 June 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/2019/06/04/after-biblical-spring-this-is-week-that-could-break-corn-belt/.

[8] Newman, Jesse and Jacob Bunge. “Floods Swamp U.S. Farm Belt.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 23 May 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/floods-swamp-u-s-farm-belt-11558603802.

[9] Plume, Karl. “Armada of barges cleared for Mississippi River shipments after floods.” Reuters, 21 June 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-weather-mississippi/armada-of-barges-cleared-for-mississippi-river-shipments-after-floods-idUSKCN1TM1SQ.

[10, 11] “2017 Sustainability Report.” Smithfield Foods, n.d., https://www.smithfieldfoods.com/integrated-report/2017/environment/case-study-working-with-grain-farmers-to-improve-yield.

[12, 13] “Agriculture, Food, Environmental Leaders Launch Effort to Support Farmers, Strengthen Conservation in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska.” Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, 31 Aug. 2016, https://midwestrowcrop.org/agriculture-food-environmental-leaders-launch-effort-to-support-farmers-strengthen-conservation-in-illinois-iowa-nebraska/.

[14] “Farmers and Water Quality.” Hormel Foods, 17 Jan. 2019, https://www.hormelfoods.com/newsroom/company-news/farmers-and-water-quality/.

[15] “Kellogg Company Works With Louisiana State University To Promote Sustainable Growing Methods Through Rice Master Grower Program.” Kellogg’s, 8 Aug. 2013, http://newsroom.kelloggcompany.com/2013-08-08-Kellogg-Company-Works-With-Louisiana-State-University-To-Promote-Sustainable-Growing-Methods-Through-Rice-Master-Grower-Program.

[16] Plastina, Alejandro and Wendiam Sawadgo. “Cost-Share Programs for Cover Crops Available to Iowa Farmers in 2018.” Ag Decision Maker, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, n.d., https://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/articles/plastina/PlaOct18.html.