GMO-Free Crops Prove Lucrative for Farmers

Last spring, for the first time in 20 years, Indiana farmer Jim Benham planted his fields entirely with soybean seeds that hadn’t been genetically modified to withstand herbicides.

It wasn’t because the 63-year-old suddenly had embraced the anti-GMO movement. Instead, he was drawn to a nearly 14% per-bushel premium for non-GMO soybeans offered by a local grain terminal, which sells them to Asian feed processors.

Mr. Benham is among a small but growing number of Midwestern farmers moving away from biotech seeds developed by Monsanto Co. , DuPont Co. and other companies in response to lower crop prices over the past two years that have slashed farm profits.

More U.S. consumers are seeking out non-GMO foods, which proponents perceive as healthier and friendlier to the environment. Retail sales of GMO-free cereal, salad dressing, eggs and other food products increased 15% to $9.6 billion last year, among the fastest-growing U.S. food segments, according to market-research firm Nielsen NV. Nielsen sharply increased its non-GMO food sales estimate last year after incorporating a broader range of products and stores….

By Jacob Bunge – Wall Street Journal –

Senate GOP demands Obama submit IRS communications

Senate Republicans on Thursday asked President Obama to turn over all communications he and his aides have had with the IRS since 2010, hoping to find out whether the tax collection agency shared private taxpayer information with political operatives at the White House.

The request, made in a letter obtained by The Washington Times, is signed by Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch and all 13 other Republicans on the committee, and is addressed specifically to Mr. Obama, saying they want to see if his employees broke the law by acquiring or sharing private information.

“We have an obligation to conduct oversight of the federal government’s administration of our tax laws,” the lawmakers wrote. “As part of this oversight, we are seeking to determine the degree to and manner in which the Internal Revenue Service shares taxpayer information with the Executive Office of the President.”

The Republicans said they tried to get the information from the IRS, but it has been “unable to provide a full accounting of its employees’ communications with the White House.” The GOP senators gave the president a Feb. 20 deadline.

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.

By Stephen Dinan – The Washington Times –

Oil prices sink further, dollar hit by wage data

Oil prices tumbled again Monday, while most Asian stock markets also retreated after a sell-off in New York at the end of last week in response to data showing weak US wage growth.

The news on wages, which overshadowed another forecast-beating rise in job creation, pushed the dollar down against the euro because it complicates the Federal Reserve’s plans to raise interest rates.

Sydney fell 0.78 percent, or 42.9 points, to close at 5,422.7 and Seoul closed 0.19 percent lower, or 3.75 points, at 1,920.95.

Shanghai — which has surged more than 50 percent over the past year — slipped 1.71 percent, or 56.09 points, to 3,229.32….

Crude prices have lost more than half their value since the middle of last year, with weakness in key markets China and the eurozone adding to the supply and demand crisis.

Wall Street provided a negative lead for stock markets after figures showed US wages grew 1.7 percent year-on-year in December, barely keeping up with inflation and indicating consumer spending power remained low….

Traders latched on to the data, ignoring the fact that unemployment fell to 5.6 percent, the lowest level in six and a half years, while 252,000 new posts were created in December to cap the best year for job creation since 1999.

“Despite the robust US jobs data, markets chose to focus on the weak wages growth and the likelihood that it will keep the Fed Reserve ‘patient’ about any rate hike,” United Overseas Bank said.

Economists took the report as allowing the Fed to delay raising interest rates. This dented speculation of an increase in April and made the dollar less attractive to investors.

“This tug of war between deflation and expectations of the first rate hike in many years by the US Fed is likely to result in intense volatility,” Nader Naeimi at AMP Capital Investors in Sydney, told Bloomberg TV….

From Yahoo News –