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Weekly News Update: May 20th Edition

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

By Mayhah Suri

Blackberries growing on plant (Edwin Remsberg).

GMOs Are Safe, But Don’t Always Deliver On Promises, Top Scientists Say A new report from the National Academy of Science once again confirms that GM crops are safe for human consumption. The report tries to answer a long list of questions about GMOs, involving nutrition, effect on the environmental, effects on the farm economy and monopoly control over seeds. The report found that some claims about the benefits of GMOs have been exaggerated. Many scientists who got their first look at the report Tuesday praised it. Some called it the most comprehensive review of GMOs that anyone, so far, has carried out. For more coverage, visit To read the full National Academy of Science report, visit:

Scientists Give Chesapeake Bay its Highest Environmental Grade Since 1992 In an annual survey of bay conditions, researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science found that water clarity and the prevalence of underwater grasses increased over the past year, while levels of nitrogen pollution fell. To read the full story go here:

New Study Looks at Air Emissions from Farms A new study from the American Geophysical Union has found that agricultural air emission sources outweigh all other human sources for fine particulate matter in the air. The study finds this is due to nitrogen fertilizers and manure combining with other air emissions to form solid particulates. To read more about the study and the results, click over to Science Daily

Emissions from Farms a Growing Source of Water Pollution, Study Finds Air pollution regulations on smokestacks and tailpipes have sharply reduced atmospheric deposition of nitrogen in the United States over the past two decades, but future improvements will likely hinge on the ability to control emissions from agriculture, a new paper suggests. To read the full story click here:

Is Organic Better than Conventional? Earlier this week, the Washington Post’s Tamar Haspel had an interesting story comparing organic to conventional to see which is better. The article compares organic returns per acre vs. conventional returns, soil health, and other comparisons. To read the story, click here

Congress Asking Questions on County ARC Payments Congressional leaders are asking USDA officials why ARC County payments can vary so much between neighboring counties. For example, in Iowa, growers in one county may have received $23/acre while growers in neighboring county received $91.52/acre. This is calling on some congressional leaders to question how USDA established the historical yields in many counties across the U.S. To better understand the story, read Agweb’s Alison Rice’s story

Upcoming Solar and Wind Energy Leasing Workshop in Kent County Landowners in Maryland have been contacted by solar and wind energy companies about leasing property for large scale energy production. For those landowners in Kent County, the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Maryland Extension, Agriculture Law Education Initiative, and Center for Environment and Society at Washington College will sponsor a workshop on June 6 in the Hynson Lounge on Washington College’s campus. The workshop will feature Dr. Sebastian Houde discussing the economics associated with these solar and wind leases and Ashley Ellixson and Paul Goeringer discussing legal issues related to these long-term leases. The workshop is free to attend and you can sign up at

Upcoming Big Ag Data Webinar: May 23rd at 12 pm On May 23 at 12pm EST, the University of Maryland, Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, and Texas A&M University will host a webinar Developing Issues in Agriculture: Legal Issues Related to Big Data in Agriculture. Speakers will be Ashley Ellixson, an Extension Legal Specialist with the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and the Agriculture Law Education Initiative and Dr. Shannon Ferrell, Oklahoma associate professor of agricultural economics, Department of Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University. For more details and registration information, visit:

New Crop Insurance Publication Available The 2014 Farm Bill created a new crop insurance product known as Whole Farm Revenue Insurance. This product allows producers with diverse operation to take out one crop insurance policy instead of multiple crop insurance policies. Paul Goeringer and Howard Leathers have recently updated the Crop Insurance Education Program’s Whole Farm fact sheet to reflect changes made by the Risk Management Agency in 2016. Although the sales closing date has passed, check out and consider how the product could impact your operation in 2017. The publication is available at

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