2022 Mississippi River Legislative Caucus Forum
September 7-9, 2022
Legislators Convene in Memphis to Improve the Health and Resilience of the Mississippi River
Overview: Legislators from the Mississippi River region convened for two days at the 2022 MRLC Forum to learn and collaborate on policy solutions to improve the health and resilience of the river.
During September 7-9, state legislators from seven states in the Mississippi River region gathered in Memphis, Tennessee for the annual forum of the Mississippi River Legislative Caucus (MRLC). The annual MRLC forum allows legislators to learn about the most pressing river-related issues facing states, share lessons learned, and collaborate with key experts on multi-state solutions. This year’s forum focused on federal funding opportunities and state policy solutions related to river health, floodplain resilience, sustainable agriculture, and soil health. Learn more about this year’s MRLC forum below.
Day One – Legislative Session Recap and Federal Funding for River Priorities
The MRLC Forum kicked off Thursday morning with introductions from MRLC staff and the Mississippi River Parkway Commission, followed by a speech from U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (Louisiana). During the introductions, MRLC accepted the Mississippi River Parkway Commission’s 2022 Stewardship Award for its collaborative work and regional networking building on issues related to sustainable agriculture, clean water, and outdoor recreation.
We then began our in-depth sessions with a legislator-led recap of the major policy victories for the Mississippi River watershed during the 2022 legislative sessions. Attendees had the chance to hear directly from fellow lawmakers who sponsored successful bills in areas including sustainable agriculture, outdoor engagement, and river health.
Following the exciting session on this year’s Mississippi River policy victories, the remainder of the day put an emphasis on leveraging federal funds to address key priorities along the river. The morning continued with a presentation by American Rivers on approaches Mississippi River legislators can take to access federal funding for environmental priorities such as flood risk management and river restoration. The American Farmland Trust then presented on ways Mississippi River states can take advantage of conservation programs in the 2018 ‘Farm Bill.’
After lunch, we transitioned to a session from the Environmental Policy Innovation Center on outcome-based procurement strategies states can use to improve river health. The first day of the MRLC forum then concluded with a session by Friends of the Mississippi River on the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act and its impacts on the Mississippi River region.
The evening was spent floating down the Mighty Mississippi River aboard the Memphis Queen Riverboat. Legislators had the chance to converse with one another and reflect on all the topics that had been discussed during the forum’s first day.
Day Two – Healthy River, Farms, and Communities to Ensure a Healthy Region
Following a busy first day of interactive sessions, Mississippi River legislators returned for the second and final day of the MRLC Forum. The morning of day two focused on improving the sustainability and wellbeing of the region’s farmland and communities.
First was a presentation on Forever Green’s cutting edge agricultural solutions, such as Continuous Living Cover (CLC) cropping systems, which can improve water quality and soil health, while also driving new economic opportunities. We then shifted our focus slightly for a session with the Sierra Club and Maine State Senator Stacy Brenner on how states can advance solutions that protect their communities and farmland from toxic PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals.’ We wrapped up the MRLC Forum with a final lunch-session from the Mississippi River Network on the proposed Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative (MRRRI), which would serve as a holistic federal river restoration program for states in the Mississippi River watershed.
Thank you to all who attended and made the 2022 MRLC Forum a success!
Looking Ahead to the 2023 Legislative Sessions and Beyond
As we look towards the 2023 sessions, MRLC staff are committed to providing the resources and capacity Mississippi River legislators need to address the issues facing the watershed. Through regional convenings such as the Annual Forum and our River Tours, in-state meetings, and policy updates, we are here to help. If you are interested in learning more about MRLC’s work or becoming a member, contact Angela Yuan.