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Mississippi River delegation lobbies for conservation funding in Washington

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Mississippi River delegation lobbies for conservation funding in Washington


Dubuque, Iowa, is photographed from an airplane on May 25, 2023. Aerial support provided by LightHawk. (Drake White-Bergey/Wisconsin Watch)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mayors from 10 states along the Mississippi River flew to Washington, D.C. earlier this month to lobby for funding to protect and restore one of the world’s most important working rivers.

The convening was part of the annual capitol meeting of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI). The initiative, which includes 105 cities, aims to scale up existing investments and policies protecting the river corridor.

Advocates from the Mississippi River Network also were in Washington D.C. to host meetings with senators and house representatives as they discussed the budgets for 2024 and 2025.

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The network consists of nearly 70 local organizations and 20,000 individual members dedicated to creating a healthier basin. Members from across the basin flew to the capitol to bring concerns from their communities directly to the decision-makers, said Maisah Khan, policy director of the network.

The Mississippi River Network presented two policy priorities: increasing federal funding for farmer-led conservation and investing in better water infrastructure. This funding would largely come from the second half of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

So far, these two acts have brought $146 billion in new investment to the Mississippi River corridor, according to the 2024 Policy Platform for MRCTI. But climate change has already taken a toll on the shipping industry, which moves 589 million tons of cargo each year.

Over the last two years, intense drought across the basin caused billions in losses along the Mississippi River, said Sarah Kapnick, chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as she spoke to the mayors in the capital.

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The mayors agree that middle America needs an ambitious plan to safeguard the Mississippi River basin, which produces 92 percent of U.S. agricultural exports. MRCTI’s 2024 Policy Platform recognizes the importance of ecosystems at the heart of this economic corridor.

Their plan incorporates federal funding over the next two years with policy recommendations designed to emphasize resilience, climate mitigation and ecosystem restoration across the basin.

Mayor Mitch Reynolds of La Crosse, Wisconsin, speaks in Washington about the Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative, launched in 2018, which found that 75 percent of marine debris tracked in the river is plastic. (Delaney Dryfoos/The Lens)

Mayor Mitch Reynolds of La Crosse, Wisconsin, speaks in Washington about the Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative, launched in 2018, which found that 75 percent of marine debris tracked in the river is plastic. (Delaney Dryfoos/The Lens)

Demand for farmer-led conservation funding

The Farm Bill reauthorization is a critical part of the policy priorities for both the Mississippi River Network and the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative. The current iteration of the Farm Bill was last passed in 2018.

On March 9, President Joe Biden signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024, which includes funding for the Department of Agriculture and five other federal departments through Sept. 30. However, the Farm Bill is separate and has been extended through 2024, and could be up for renewal this year.

The Mississippi River Network called on elected officials to protect and increase conservation program funding in both the Farm Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act. Farmers play a crucial role in conservation because the fertilizers and pesticides sprayed on their fields eventually run off into the Mississippi River and contribute to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Current conservation program funding is not meeting the demands of farmers, according to data collected by the Mississippi River Network. There is huge demand for these programs and they are consistently underfunded. These conservation practices would offer a high return on investment for both farmers and downstream Mississippi River communities in the form of mitigating floods, filtering pollutants, and maintaining habitat for recreation and tourism.

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“Funding farmers is the issue that everyone is in support of,” said Mark “River” Peoples, an advocate and guide with the Quapaw Canoe Company who traveled to the capitol with the Mississippi River Network to speak with elected officials. “But where is that money going to come from?”

Mayors along the Mississippi River also are calling on elected officials to increase funding for current conservation practices. MRCTI urges the House Committee on Agriculture to update its proposed Healthy Farms Healthy Watersheds Act of 2023 to include the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The act would strengthen nutrient runoff management programs, which can reduce pollutants that contribute to the dead zone.

The mayors of MRCTI also encouraged Congress to increase funding for the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, which uses Farm Bill money for agricultural conservation programs, by $50 million. According to MRCTI, since 2005, the corridor spanning the 10 mainstem basin states has sustained over $246 billion in losses from droughts, floods, extreme heat and named storms.

Billion-dollar climate disasters are becoming increasingly common. In 2023 alone, the U.S. experienced 28 weather disasters where losses exceeded $1 billion. Mayors along the Mississippi River have seen the effects of these climate disasters steadily increase.

As droughts increase and last for longer periods, the mayors of MRCTI urge Congress to address gaps in drought policy and resilience.

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Water infrastructure to east chronic drought

“Five hundred and fifty-three days of low water had incredible economic implications on this nation,” said Edward Belk, director of civil works for the Army Corps of Engineers.

Southern Louisiana’s historic drought also caused a second year of saltwater intrusion, threatening drinking water. As salt water from the Gulf of Mexico crept up the Mississippi River, the Army Corps barged 153 million gallons of water to communities that had lost access to clean drinking water, said Belk.

The mayors also asked that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency invest $5 billion to find a permanent solution for saltwater intrusion in southern Louisiana. MRCTI said the funding would begin to cover the cost of converting water treatment plants to handle desalination as well as examine and implement the best option to ensure New Orleans has permanent access to fresh water.

This story is a product of the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk, an independent reporting network based at the University of Missouri in partnership with Report for America, with major funding from the Walton Family Foundation. MRCTI and the Mississippi River Network also receive Walton funding.

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Mississippi

Clemson coach Shawn Poppie adds Mississippi's Chris Ayers as associate head coach

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Clemson coach Shawn Poppie adds Mississippi's Chris Ayers as associate head coach


CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson coach Shawn Poppie is adding Mississippi women’s basketball coach Chris Ayers to his staff.

Poppie said Friday that Ayers, who spent the past six years with the Rebels, would be his associate head coach.

Ayers helped Mississippi to the past three NCAA Tournaments.

Ayers is the latest hire for Poppie, the former Chattanooga head coach who was named to replace Amanda Butler last month.

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Poppie had brought in three assistants from his former program in Jonathan Goldberg, Katelyn Grisillo, and Jayda Worthy. Goldberg will serve as director of player development and recruiting, while Worthy will be director of player personnel.

Poppie said Ayers brings recruiting experience and player development “at the highest level.”

“His resume speaks for itself,” Poppie said.

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Makylan Pounders working toward long-awaited first season at Mississippi State

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Makylan Pounders working toward long-awaited first season at Mississippi State


STARKVILLE — More than three years later, Makylan Pounders is back where it all started.

As a three-star offensive line recruit from Byhalia, in northwest Mississippi, Pounders had offers from five Southeastern Conference programs out of high school, including both institutions in his home state. His first unofficial visits as a high school junior were to Ole Miss, but in April 2020, Pounders committed to Mississippi State. And he was all set to become a Bulldog until he decommitted that December, shortly before that year’s early signing period.

Three days after decommitting from MSU, Pounders committed to the Rebels, and was ready to sign his national letter of intent to play for head coach Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss’ offensive coordinator at the time — Jeff Lebby. But Ole Miss never sent over the proper paperwork, and after Pounders called the coaches several times, he was told the Rebels were rescinding his scholarship offer.

Pounders quickly pivoted and ended up playing even closer to home, signing with Memphis the very next day. He redshirted his freshman year with the Tigers but soon worked his way into the starting lineup, making 10 starts as a redshirt sophomore last fall and helping Memphis rank seventh in the country in scoring offense. With two years of eligibility remaining, Pounders entered the transfer portal and immediately had several enticing offers waiting for him.

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Auburn and South Carolina each offered him the day Pounders put his name in the portal, as did Texas Tech and Pittsburgh. But Pounders knew MSU was the right fit for him, and he became the fourth transfer addition Lebby brought in after taking over as the Bulldogs’ head coach in late November.

“It’s honestly been surreal,” Pounders said. “Just being able to come back and play for these colors, it really was a personal feeling for me. When I hit the transfer portal, I knew where I was coming, just because (of the) family vibe. All the people around here as far as the support staff are still around, so I was able to feel at home real easily compared to other schools.”

Pounders is one of four offensive linemen MSU has added via the portal this offseason, along with Ethan Miner (North Texas), Marlon Martinez (LSU) and Jacoby Jackson (Texas Tech). All are expected to compete for starting roles considering the Bulldogs’ top six linemen from 2023 have either transferred or exhausted their eligibility.

New offensive line coach Cody Kennedy is working Pounders at left tackle and plans to have him start there when MSU opens the season against Eastern Kentucky on Aug. 31.

“We talk as a big o-line group, but those transfers are a little more tight-knit, just because we all came into a new situation,” Pounders said. “All of us coming from somewhat winning programs, we all can come together and lead by example and other people falling in line, and it seems like it’s working so far.”

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Pounders expressed excitement about the Bulldogs’ quarterback depth — Baylor transfer Blake Shapen is the presumptive starter, but rising sophomore Chris Parson appeared in two games last year and incoming freshman Michael Van Buren could also work his way into the mix.

But even after losing Kwatrivous Johnson, Percy Lewis, Cole Smith and others up front, MSU has plenty of depth on the line as well. Albert Reese, Leon Bell and Canon Boone all saw playing time in reserve roles last year, and players like Grant Jackson, who has mostly played on special teams over the last three years, could see the field more as well.

“(Pounders) has that Bulldog mentality for sure,” Jackson said. “You always like to see somebody like that come in and take charge. He’s going to help us out a lot at left tackle.”

MSU

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Thunder & Lightning: Can Mississippi State Continue Its Diamond Dominance of Ole Miss? – SuperTalk Mississippi

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Thunder & Lightning: Can Mississippi State Continue Its Diamond Dominance of Ole Miss? – SuperTalk Mississippi



For seven straight seasons, the balance of baseball power in the Magnolia State has belonged to Mississippi State. Now the Bulldogs head to Oxford looking to turn the screws on their bitter enemies once again, with Ole Miss nearing must win mode after a tough start to SEC play. Who will leave the field Sunday with the series in their pocket? Brian Hadad and Robbie Faulk preview the latest revival of the SEC’s most intense rivalry.

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