Advocating for Iowa at MRN's DC Fly-in

posted by Alicia Vasto on Monday, March 11, 2024

Last week, I flew to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Mississippi River Network’s (MRN) annual fly-in. When I first started with IEC in 2019, I went on the fly-in trip after two months on the job. I had no idea what to expect or how to talk with congressional staff, but it was a very rewarding learning experience. Since then, I’ve participated every year, becoming one of the trip veterans, to meet with Iowa’s congressional delegation on behalf of Iowans and the Mississippi River. What I’ve learned is that the congressional offices want to hear from constituents and need to know more about what’s happening on the ground in our states. As clichéd as it sounds, our perspectives are crucial for the folks in Washington. 

MRN DC Fly In Gathering

This year, our conversations with congressional staff focused on Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) spending in MRN’s 10-state region. With my colleagues Chad Wallace from the Illinois Environmental Council and Perry Whitaker from the Mississippi River Water Trail Association, we shared information with Iowa lawmakers on the impacts of additional funding from the IRA for Farm Bill conservation programs.

Despite historic investments from the IRA, the conservation programs are still oversubscribed, with many more applications submitted than what can be awarded. In 2023, only 22% of Iowa’s applications for the two largest working lands conservation programs, EQIP and CSP, were successful. While we continue to operate under a voluntary, incentive-based regime for water quality protection and erosion reduction, we should be working to meet the demand for voluntary conservation efforts. These practices protect the Mississippi River and help reduce the size of the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. We asked Iowa’s representatives and senators to protect the conservation funding from the IRA in the next Farm Bill.  


We also shared information about how funding from the BIL was being spent in Iowa. Iowa’s State Revolving Fund (SRF) provides communities access to low-interest loans, many of which are forgivable, for drinking water treatment and source water protection. IEC was recently awarded a mini-grant from MRN for outreach on Iowa’s SRF, so watch for more information in the coming months on how the SRF is making an impact for Iowa communities. 

We align with MRN in the belief that the Mississippi River should be a national priority for restoration and protection. As one of America’s great waterways, the River deserves a national program the same way the Great Lakes and Everglades do. We also believe the management of the River must be looked at holistically from a watershed perspective. The work we do on a state-by-state basis can only be enhanced by a watershed-level coordinating body. We support legislation that would create the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative, which was reintroduced in 2023. We hope to see more support from the program and have asked our Iowa congressional delegation to support it.  

MRN_DC_FlyIn_SelfieThe DC fly-in reminds of the critical advocacy work that we must continue to do at all levels of government. I am grateful that IEC is a member of MRN and can be part of the voices calling for federal prioritization of conservation and water quality. If you are interested in federal advocacy work, please check out the resources from MRN at

  1. clean water
  2. federal funding
  3. inflation reduction act (ira)
  4. water quality

About The Author

Alicia joined the Council in 2019. She grew up in Adel, Iowa. She previously worked as the director of the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition, where she supported environmental educators and advanced environmental literacy. Alicia holds a Master of Environmental Management degree from Duke Uni ... read more