FMR in DC: Reflections from a whirlwind week in the nation's capital

FMR grassroots organizing coordinator pictured with Sen. Tina Smith and other members of the MRN delegation.

FMR Grassroots Organizing Coordinator Maddie Miller, left, joins colleagues while meeting with Sen. Tina Smith in Washington D.C. during the Mississippi River Network Fly-In. (Photo by Angela Yuan, National Caucus of Environmental Legislators)

A coalition of environmental groups, including FMR, came together in Washington, D.C., recently to make a case for the Mississippi River on a national stage.

The Mississippi River Network's annual D.C. fly-in gave representatives from the main stem states an opportunity to discuss important policy initiatives with some of the most influential elected officials and their offices. As covered by The Lens and shared via MinnPost, that included federal funding for farmer conservation efforts and investments in newer, more effective water infrastructure. Those priorities are national reflections of the things FMR is also working on locally, like advocating for clean-water crops to help protect our soil and water, urging support for a Farm Bill that considers what the Mississippi River needs, and exploring options for an invasive carp deterrent.

Representing FMR at the fly-in was Grassroots Organizing Coordinator Maddie Miller. After returning from the whirlwind trip through the nation's corridors of power, she wanted to share some thoughts about the experience with FMR's supporters. Here's what she said:

Q: As FMR's grassroots organizing coordinator, what was your role at this year's Mississippi River Network (MRN) fly-in?

Maddie: The coalition's goal was to amplify the network's main policy priorities, which are representative of issues facing the whole stretch of the river. That includes protecting conservation programs in the Farm Bill, advancing the recently reintroduced Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Act (MRRRI) and investing in water infrastructure. We met with the offices of federal legislators who represent districts along the river, and my role was to represent FMR at these meetings while demonstrating strong support for the issues we're working so hard to address in Minnesota

Q: You were able to speak to federal lawmakers about some of FMR's biggest priorities, such as the Farm Bill and stopping invasive carp. How did those conversations go?

Maddie: They went well! The talks overall were informative and helped us understand where things stand at the federal level, and everyone we met with was receptive to our policy priorities. For example, we talked with offices about funding for conservation programs in the next the Farm Bill. Many of them are actively advocating for those programs as part of Farm Bill negotiations, so we were able to thank them for their work protecting the environment. There was also a lot of interest in, and even familiarity with, invasive carp. We're hopeful these federal conversations will complement our work with the Minnesota DNR and other partners to secure funding for a carp deterrent at the state level.

Q: What stood out to you about the experience of working with our MRN partners on a national level?

Maddie: It was amazing getting to connect with folks from up and down the Mississippi River. There was such a vast and meaningful range of knowledge and experience that each person had, and it was so cool to learn from them. Issues that New Orleans faces are very different from the issues the Twin Cities face, but they're all connected. It felt like putting the pieces of a puzzle together and seeing the bigger picture come together.

Q: Why is it important to show up as a coalition to advocate for policies that protect the Mississippi River?

Maddie: Showing up as a coalition clearly demonstrates the solidarity between communities and organizations throughout the watershed who want to protect and enhance the river for generations to come. It's a great show of power in communities, and how we can all come together with a common goal. 

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