Cultivating Influence: The 2008 Farm Bill Lobbying Frenzy
Agribusiness, commodity trade associations, food manufacturers and other interests all pushed to get a big slice of the Farm Bill pie. The $173.5 million lobbying frenzy ranked alongside the Center for Public Integrity’s $120 million estimate for health care reform lobbying and the Center for Responsive Politics’ $250 million estimate for lobbying on the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. The 2008 Farm Bill lobbying campaign ranked among the most well-financed legislative fights of the past decade. More than 1,000 companies, trade associations and other groups spent an estimated $173.5 million lobbying on just the 2008 Farm Bill, according to a Food & Water Watch analysis of data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. During every day that the 110th Congress was in session in 2007 and 2008, special interests spent an average of $539,000 lobbying on issues covered by the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill, which is reauthorized every five years, is a sprawling piece of legislation that covers commodity program payments, nutrition programs (primarily the new version of the food stamp program), ethanol and biofuel policy, international food aid, agricultural research grants and rural development programs. The 2008 Farm Bill directed about $307 billion in federal spending between 2008 and 2012.
On the Farm Bill, special interests hired an army of well-connected lobbyists to press their case with Congress, including 45 former members of Congress, at least 461 former congressional and executive branch staffers (including 86 that worked for former agriculture committee members or the U.S. Depart- ment of Agriculture4) and a host of K Street firms.
The former House Agriculture Committee Chairman and Ranking Members that oversaw the 2002 Farm Bill, Larry Combest (R-Texas) and Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas), each received more than $1 million in fees to lobby on the Farm Bill. In 2007, nine of the top 10 Washington firms lobbied on the Farm Bill including Patton Boggs, Akin Gump and Barbour Griffith & Rogers.