WASHINGTON, January 4, 2012 -Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney raised $317,325 in campaign contributions from farm and agribusiness interests last year, leading all presidential candidates and narrowly exceeding President Obama’s $296,341. But Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., even topped any presidential hopeful with $333,259 from individuals and political action committees that the Center for Responsive Politics classifies as agribusiness-related.

The tabulation of 2012 campaign contributions during the previous year will increase after fourth quarter reports are filed with the Federal Election Commission. But through the first three quarters, they show that Republican hopefuls as a group collected more than three times as much – or $863,039 altogether – from agribusiness as did the president’s re-election effort. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was second in GOP funds from agribusiness with $254,800. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out earlier last year, was a distant third with $73,600.

Among candidates on November’s ballot for U.S. Senate seats, Stabenow nearly doubled agribusiness contributions to Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who has raised $181,682 so far. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., raised $122,750 before withdrawing and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., had $115,500.

Although incumbents continued to be heavily favored by interest groups, three Republican challengers had significant agribusiness backing: former Gov. George Allen of Virginia, $107,999; Atty. Gen. Jon Bruning of Nebraska, $92,450, and Mike Haridopolos in Florida, $85,591. Rep. Denny Rehberg, D-Mont., raised $84,600 for his challenge to Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., who received $74,300 from agribusiness contributors. Rep. Richard Berg, R-N.D., raised $69,500 for his campaign to succeed retiring Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

Farm and food industry donors favored House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., to the tune of $255,200 and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, with $196,600. Other top agribusiness recipients for House races: Jeff Denham, R-Calif., $186,902; Steve Fincher, R-Tenn., $185,534, and Tom Latham, R-Iowa, $143.900. Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., the ranking House Agriculture Committee Democrat, received $138,250.

Top contributors so far: American Crystal Sugar, $1,032,500; Altria Group, $652,770; Weaver Popcorn, $334,900; Farm Credit Council $306,595; California Dairies $277,900; Publix Super Markets, $276,900; Flo-Sun, $249,040; American Veterinary Medical Association, $222,500.

The bulk of the contributions came from the groups’ PACs, but a few individual contributions could be identified by searching the www.opensecrets.com database: Cargill CEO Greg Page gave Pawlenty $2,500 while Vice Chairman David Raisbeck gave Romney the same. Perry got $2,500 each from Pilgrim’s Pride founder Lonnie Pilgrim and Jared Hixon of Dairyman’s Beef Auction, Bakersfield, Calif. Maximum $2,500 contributions to Obama were made by Carole Jett, deputy chief of staff at USDA, and Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid.

Original story printed in January 4, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.





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