The Farm Bill has evolved from a spotlight on commodities to a focus on consumers, a joint investigation by Harvest Public Media and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found. At least 600 companies spent roughly a half billion dollars in total lobbying during the two years the Farm Bill was moving on Capitol Hill, with big spenders ranging from Fortune 500 leaders in banking, trade, transportation and energy to non-profits worried about food stamps and global hunger.
ByBy Pam Dempsey and Robert Holly/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
It took two years for the U.S. Congress to come together and pass the Agricultural Act of 2014, a piece of legislation known simply as "the Farm Bill." During that period of heated discussion, at least 80 groups spent millions of dollars lobbying on topics that included the Farm Bill and crop insurance.
The federal crop insurance program has – once again – come under fire for giving farmers too many subsidies and costing the American taxpayer too much money. This time, the attempt to restructure what many in the agriculture industry refer to as the main “safety net for farmers” comes from the White House and Congress.
During the 2013 planting season, U.S. farmers had nearly two dozen different crop insurance policies to sort through when deciding how to best protect themselves from losses caused by bad weather, price drops and other perils. A Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting analysis revealed that two options stand out.
Ten years ago, U.S. farmers who chose to insure their crops from weather disasters and market fluctuations received a combined total of about $3.2 billion in insurance payouts in a year. Those payouts have steadily increased by billions of dollars since then, leaving some skeptics arguing that the insurance programs – and the bulky government subsidies that go along with them – are simply welfare for farmers.
The massive Farm Bill, which will spend $956 billion and set U.S. food policy for the next decade, is no longer the purview solely of agricultural interests. The Farm Bill has evolved from a spotlight on commodities to a focus on consumers, a joint investigation by Harvest Public Media and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found.
From major financial institutions (Wells Fargo & Company) to Taco Bell (Yum! Brands) to Midwest farmers (the National Corn Growers Association), outside groups spent big bucks to shape national food and agriculture policy. But thanks to opaque lobbying disclosure laws, it’s nearly impossible to know how much power each group wields and what they were ultimately able to accomplish.
As part of a project with Harvest Public Media, the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting analyzed electronic federal lobbying reports to get a closer look at who lobbied on the 2014 Farm Bill. Access the results and data here.