WASHINGTON, February 22, 2012 -Political action committees affiliated with farmers’ and ranchers’ organizations and agricultural supply and processor trade associations contributed more than $7.3 million to congressional candidates last year, according to PAC reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Following a familiar pattern, nearly two-thirds went to Republicans, mostly to incumbents.

The 65-35 ratio of contributions favoring Republicans is a reversion to a tradition that predated the two-year cycle ahead of the 2010 election. Then, agribusiness and farm PACs split their giving almost evenly – $9.9 million to Democrats, $9.5 million for Republican candidates.

The American Crystal Sugar cooperative PAC remains at the top of the agricultural PAC list with $1.02 million, gaining 10th place among the largest of all PACs last year. Although American Crystal contributions slightly favor Democrats once more, other sugar grower PACs last year contributed more to Republicans, largely reflecting the GOP takeover of the House and the PAC tendency to concentrate donations on incumbents.

The largest contributions tended to go to the chairmen and ranking members of the agriculture committees, a long-standing pattern. But there were notable contributions from food and agricultural PACs to non-incumbents that stand out, especially in the number of large contributions to Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., who is challenging incumbent Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. Rehberg has contributions from PACs sponsored by the California Dairies Inc. cooperative, Land O’Lakes and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Several other farm PACs have given Tester $44,600 and he reported $47,500 in contributions from individual livestock producers in the $6.2 million he’s raised so far. Rehberg has raised $2.7 million.

Candidates for open Senate seats who have significant agricultural PAC contributions are Republicans George Allen in Virginia (NCBA, CDI, National Chicken Council), Rick Berg in North Dakota (CDI, LOL, the Farm Credit Council and American Veterinary Medical Association), Debra Fischer of Nebraska (NCBA) and Heather Wilson of New Mexico (CDI).

Activity by groups critical of agriculture and environmental PACs, already small in relative terms, tapered off last year. The Humane Society Legislative Fund doled out $54,000, 59% of it to Democrats; the League of Conservation Voters $41,850, 99% to Democrats. The Sierra Club managed only $10,867, all of it going to Democratic incumbents.

People with ties to agribusiness provided almost twice as much as the PACs, giving directly to candidates and party committees. They contributed $13.8 million last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, with donations tilted even more to the GOP, by a 71-29 ratio.


Original story printed in February 22, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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