Tracking the money behind the Farm Bill
The Farm Bill legislation that senators are currently tackling contains almost $100 billion in spending. In Washington, when there’s lots of money at stake, lots of lobbying dollars get thrown around. The Farm Bill is no different.
According to the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group, the journalistic arm of the nonpartisan nonprofit governmental transparency think-tank, “agribusiness has already sunk $39.2 million in direct contributions to federal candidate and party coffers this election cycle, nearly three-fourths of that to Republican interests, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.” Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is the top recipient of those funds.
The central battles inFarm Bill policies – Southern rice and peanut interests vs. Midwest corn and soybean farmers; deficit hawks vs. food assistance benefits; crop insurance vs. subsidy payments – are all attracting political campaign money.
For instance, Sunlight’s blog post details the fight over sugar subsidies.
On Wednesday, big sugar beat back an attempt by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to eliminate a decades-old sugar price support program. The Senate voted 50 to 46 to table her amendment. Sugar interests such as American Crystal Sugar and Flo-Sun Inc. are among the biggest campaign contributors in the agribusiness sector, giving to Democrats and Republicans alike. The sugar industry gains strength from having two geographic strongholds--the South, where sugar cane is grown, and the mid-west, the source of sugar beets. However, sugar's opponents, the interests that buy sugar for their products, is also quite formidable. The Coalition for Sugar Reform, which supported the Shaheen amendment, include such heavyweights as the American Beverage Association, the Food Marketing Institute, and the Snack Food Association, which in turn have powerful corporate membership.
The Sunlight Foundation’s reporting and databases offer a wealth of knowledge – important currency when so much money is being bandied around.