USDA to curb runoff into Mississippi River in 12 states

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 | 3:24 p.m. CST; updated 4:31 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it aims to stop agricultural runoff in 41 watersheds in 12 states from ending up in the Mississippi River.

The departments said it has $320 million for farmers who want to slow runoff.

The agency is targeting watersheds in Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. In all, those areas make up more 42 million acres of land, or about 5 percent of the Mississippi River basin's land area.

Agricultural runoff leads to high nutrient and sediment levels in the river. The river's high nutrient load leads to an area of dangerously low oxygen in the Gulf of Mexico every summer known as "the dead zone."

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