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FARM BILL LOBBYING EXCEEDS $500 MILLION, MAJOR PLAYERS LISTED


By Ryan Hanrahan, University of Illinois' FarmDoc project

The Hill's Saul Elbein reported Monday that "pharmaceutical, manufacturing and big agriculture interests have spent more than $400 million lobbying Congress on a new farm bill, a new report has found."

"That's more than four times the amount of money spent by the public sector and civil society, according to public data compiled by the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS)," Elbein reported. "The group found that nonprofits, labor unions, state and local governments and tribal nations spent a total of $95 million over the same period."

In total, the report said that "giant agribusinesses, food and agriculture industry associations, and other interest groups reported more than $523 million in federal lobby expenditures on disclosure reports that listed 'farm bill' among the specific lobbying issues" between 2019 and 2023.

"Lobbying by the agribusiness sector has steadily increased: In just the last five years, the agribusiness sector's annual lobbying expenditures have risen 22 percent, from $145 million in 2019 to $177 million in 2023," the report said. "And each year, agribusiness spends more on federal lobbying than the oil and gas industry and the defense sector."

Groups that Spent on Lobbying

The report said that "a total of 561 companies, industry associations, other special interest groups and advocacy organizations reported lobbying on the food and farm bill during this (2019-2023) time period. Top spenders included the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Crystal Sugar Company, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF or Farm Bureau), and Koch Industries."

Between 2019 and 2023, the report says, the US Chamber of Commerce was the biggest spender on lobbying, with a little more than $67 million spent, followed by Biotechnology Innovation Organization with a little more than $35 million in spending and Bayer Corporation with a little more than $23 million in spending.

In addition, the report says, "agribusiness-linked political donors also sought to influence key food and farm bill architects through an additional $3.4 million in campaign contributions during the same five-year period. Contributions went to the campaigns of Rep. Glenn 'G. T.' Thompson (R-PA), chair of the House Committee on Agriculture; Rep. David Scott (D-GA), ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture; and Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. (The chair of the Senate committee, Sen. Debbie Stabenow [D-MI], is retiring in 2024 and was not up for reelection and accepting campaign contributions during the study period.)"

Elbein reported that the report's co-author Karen Perry Stillerman said that "'the food and farm bill has the power to transform our food and farm system, and agribusiness and industry groups know this.' These groups 'started lobbying from almost the moment the last farm bill was enacted, showing that these groups are always working to influence this legislation in their favor.'"

Specific Lobbying Details Remain Unknown

While the report details the amount spent on lobbying for the Farm Bill using open records research through OpenSecrets and lobbying disclosure databases, it says that it is impossible to know exactly what the lobbying funds were spent on.

For example, the report says, "Koch (Industries) is one of the largest privately held multinational corporations within the United States and has a stake in various aspects of the food and farming system, including fertilizer and agrichemical manufacturing. Koch also produces fuels like natural gas and has recently spent $3.6 billion to acquire a new fertilizer production facility in Iowa (in the heart of the US commodity production zone), demonstrating that the interests of agribusiness and the oil and gas industry overlap. There is no way to know, however, specifically what Koch was lobbying for in the food and farm bill."



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