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WASHINGTON, D.C. 

Global adoption of biotech crops reaches new peak 

Millions of farmers around the world continue to choose genetically modified (GM) crop varieties because of their environmental and socio-economic benefits and the important role they play in addressing food security, according to a study released May 4.

The report, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016, produced annually by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), says 18 million farmers in 26 countries grew biotech crops on 185.1 million hectares (457 million acres) in 2016.

"The United Nations warns that our food supply must double by 2050 to meet the world’s expected population growth to 9 billion people,” said Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO). “GM crops produce bigger yields on less land and help farmers and growers mitigate the environmental challenges of climate change.”

The report shows a 110-fold increase in adoption rate of GM globally in just 21 years of commercialization, proving biotechnology to be the fastest adopted crop technology in the world.  Adoption has grown from 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) in 1996 to 185.1 million hectares (457 million acres) in 2016.

WASHINGTON D.C.

Walmart and True Value to phase out bee-killing pesticides

Friends of the Earth and its allies announced that Walmart and True Value have decided to eliminate neonicotinoid pesticides, a leading driver of global bee declines, from company garden retail supply chains.

This follows an ongoing campaign by Friends of the Earth and allies urging garden retailers, including True Value and Walmart, to stop selling plants treated with neonicotinoids and remove products containing them from store shelves.

Walmart confirmed that its growers have eliminated neonics from approximately 80 percent of its garden plants. Walmart has also eliminated neonicotinoids in almost all its off-the-shelf gardening products. True Value announced that it will phase out products that contain neonicotinoid pesticides by the spring of 2018 and that the company is working with its growing partners to remove neonicotinoids from its plants.

Walmart and True Value join more than 110 retailers across the country, including Home Depot and Lowe's, that have made firm commitments to eliminate neonicotinoids. To date, Ace Hardware is the only leading garden retailer that has not made a strong commitment to eliminate neonicotinoids on both plants and off-the-shelf products.

WASHINGTON D.C.

ICBA supports bill offering tax relief for rural lending

The Independent Community Bankers of America® (ICBA) supports legislation to support farmers, ranchers and rural homeowners by providing tax relief for agricultural and rural residential lending. The Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America Act, introduced by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), would promote access to credit and reduce borrowing costs amid the current environment of weak commodities prices.

While farmers enjoyed robust prices for their commodities earlier this decade, the current sag in farm prices has reduced net farm income from $123 billion in 2013 to a projected $62.3billion this year. Meanwhile, strict mortgage and appraisal regulations are driving lenders out of rural mortgage lending, curtailing access to credit, and threatening the rural housing market.

Under the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America Act, the interest received on farm loans secured by agricultural real estate would not be taxable. The bill would provide similar relief to interest on loans secured by rural single-family homes that are the principal residence of the borrower in towns with a population of less than 2,500. Together, these provisions will offer community bankers greater flexibility to work with farmers who may have trouble servicing their debt while giving lenders a strong incentive to remain in the rural farming and housing markets.

RICHMOND, VA

Virginia strawberry growers expect strong season

Virginia's strawberry growers are optimistic about this season, despite weather that had many worried earlier this year.

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in a statement Thursday that spring has ushered in a bumper crop of strawberries and growers expect this will be a strong season.

Department Commissioner Sandy Adams says strawberry season generates about $9 million in sales revenue each year for Virginia growers.

Strawberry season is relatively brief and the peak can vary from region to region. An early warm up this winter followed by a refreeze had some growers worried about their crops.

Farmers used a variety of efforts to prevent frost damage, including plastic blankets, row covers and spraying the plants with water, which provides a protective barrier.

NEW BEDFORD, MA

Plan to help save lobsters up for vote

A plan to try to stem the decline of the southern New England lobster population is coming up for a vote in front of an interstate regulatory board.

The population of lobsters off of Connecticut, Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts has declined as waters have warmed.

Fishing managers have considered tools like trap reductions and seasonal closures to try to preserve the population. They also have talked about the possibility of changing the legal harvesting size for lobsters.

An arm of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is scheduled to consider new management measures on Monday and Tuesday. The commission held a series of public hearings on the proposal in March.

Most U.S. lobster is brought to shore in Maine, where the harvest has been very strong for several years.

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