Farm and agribusiness PACs increase congressional giving

By Jim Webster

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Sept. 8 – Agriculture and food industry political action committee (PAC) donations to candidates in the 2010 congressional election are slightly ahead of the pace set during the 2008 campaign, according to a new Agri-Pulse analysis of campaign contributions.

Their contributions to members of Congress – and a small number of challengers – total $13.6 million through August 22. That compares with a total of $13.1 million through Sept. 17 two years ago, according to Federal Election Commission data posted by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Like the 2008 figures, contributions in this campaign season are running slightly behind the pace that led to $15.8 million in total contributions for the 2006 election, but the total numbers are expected to increase as Nov. 2 approaches. And just like two years ago, the principal PACs sponsored by the farming and food industry tend to favor incumbents. That leads to a 56-44 percent margin in favor of Democratic candidates, a reversal from the margin that favored Republicans when the GOP had more incumbents.

The breakdown according to commodity and organization shows largely the same pattern that we have tracked for nearly 25 years. Several years ago, sugar cooperatives and grower groups overtook dairy farmer and co-op organizations as the leading commodity. It’s no different this year – American Crystal Sugar’s PAC keeps its place as the top donor to federal candidates. The Minnesota-based sugar cooperative is the 13th largest of all federal PACs so far this year, contributing over $1.7 million.

In other categories, California Dairies takes the top spot among dairy cooperatives and processors, with contributions totaling over $445,000. Dean Foods ranked second at $417,000. The United Egg Association led livestock groups with over $238,000 in contributions, followed by the National Pork Producers Council (over $190,000) and the National Chicken Council ($177,000). Among U.S. crop commodity organizations, the National Cotton Council ranked highest, with over $262,000 in donations, followed by the USA Rice Federation ($167,500) and the American Soybean Association ($89,000).

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