The mission of the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk is to enhance the quantity, quality and impact of journalism on agriculture, water and related issues throughout the basin.

Why cover agriculture and water?

The Mississippi River Basin spans nearly half of the continental United States. Millions of residents rely on the river system for drinking water, commerce and recreation.

More than 90% of America’s agricultural exports are grown in the Mississippi River Basin, including more than three-quarters of the world’s exports in feed grains, and most of the country’s livestock. More than 70% of nitrate pollution in the Mississippi River comes from agriculture, which harms human health and aquatic life and contributes to the “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

As the impacts of climate change become more severe, residents can expect more extreme weather, including flooding. Recent major floods on the Mississippi River and its tributaries killed at least 12 people and caused more than $20 billion in damage.

By making resources available on this beat, we aim to support more complete coverage of these critical topics. As our reporters build deeper knowledge, they’ll be able to tap into a network of newsrooms, experts, and support that will help them tell more equitable, impactful and interconnected stories.

What topics will the Desk cover?

The focus of the Desk is agriculture, water and related issues, which includes farming, water quality and quantity, land use and climate change. As part of the agriculture and environment beat, we could see coverage touching on rural issues, environmental justice, public health or business — as long as there is a strong ag and water component.

How will this program maintain editorial independence?

The Ag & Water Desk and its collaborators will operate with editorial independence, both from funders and from the University of Missouri or any other parent entity.

Editorial decision-making will be in the complete control of the directors of the Desk and journalists and editors at the partner newsrooms. In the event that our coverage or sources included in a story present a potential conflict of interest because of financial support, that relationship will be disclosed in our coverage. We will abide by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics