AEI releases two reports on farm political influence

The American Enterprise Institute on Monday released two reports on the influence of farmers and others in agriculture, food, beverages and transportation sectors.

The first report, “Political Influence Efforts in the U.S. Through Campaign Contributions and Lobbying Expenditures: An Index Approach,” details how the campaign contribution and lobbying expenditure numbers are estimated both for 60 sectors of the economy including farming.

The second report, which was published in AEI’s The Monthly Harvest newsletter, details the influence of farm sector campaign contributions and lobbying from 2003 to 2020.

The principal author of each report is Vincent Smith, a professor of economics at Montana State University who is also a visiting scholar at AEI.

The first report ranks industries by creating indexes that take into consideration industry size and total industry-specific spending on political influence in each year divided by the dollar value of that sector’s output in that year.

Farming ranks No. 13 in political influence, with the amusement, gambling and recreation industry No. 1 and water transportation – an area of great interest to farmers due to the importance of modernizing locks, dams and ports – ranks No. 3. But farms rank just ahead of the oil and gas industry, which comes in at No. 14, and way above food, beverage and tobacco products, which rank No. 33. Truck transportation ranks No. 49 and food and drinking places No. 53. Warehousing and storage is at the bottom at No. 60.

“Efforts to influence legislation by industry interest groups may be good or bad for the economy as a whole, but industries with relatively high levels of political spending may be more heavily engaged in rent-seeking,” Smith and his co-authors, Benjamin Goren and Phillip Hoxie, wrote.

“The data are all publicly available, and the objective of the background paper is to enable anyone who wishes to understand and/or replicate how the lobbying and campaign contributions were calculated,” Smith added in an email.

The second report, written by Smith and Goren, a research assistant at AEI, concludes that “adjusting for its size (as measured by the value of farm output), the sector appears to be substantially more heavily engaged in efforts to influence federal policies than many other sectors of the economy.” That is not surprising, the authors add, given the scope and size of farm subsidy payments and the extent to which farming is affected by other federal policies.


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