Sugar beets harvested by Mark Nyquist on his Moorhead, Minn., farm.

Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Beet farmers big supercommittee donors

  • Article by: JIM SPENCER
  • Star Tribune
  • November 15, 2011 - 10:41 PM

WASHINGTON - Two Minnesota sugar beet farmers' cooperatives rank high among American agribusinesses giving political contributions to the congressional supercommittee charged with reducing the federal deficit, according to a new analysis.

American Crystal Sugar Co., a Moorhead, Minn.-based co-op, has contributed $143,750 since Jan. 1 to the re-election campaigns or political committees of supercommittee members. That ranks second in the country for agribusinesses, the analysis found.

Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative was 16th in contributions, having given $40,500. Another big giver with a Minnesota link was Dean Foods, which distributes dairy products for Minnesota-based Land O'Lakes. The company gave $70,550, the fifth-most money. studied the data that was collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. Both are nonprofit, nonpartisan research organizations that examine money's influence on politics.

The supercommittee will decide in the next 10 days if it wants to include the broad outlines of a new farm bill in its plan to rein in the nation's debt. Leaders of the agriculture committees of the House and Senate, including Minnesota Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, have fashioned a farm bill proposal privately and hope to offer it to the supercommittee by week's end. If the supercommittee includes the farm bill specifics in any agreement it reaches, those principles will largely govern agriculture policy for the next five years.

Critics of the process have cited a lack of public input into the structuring of the farm bill.

The supercommittee asked for budget-cutting suggestions from several policy committees in the House and Senate as it undertook its goal of finding $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by Nov. 23. Peterson, the ranking minority member of the House Agriculture Committee, said he and other leaders are simply meeting that charge with a farm bill proposal that includes more than $20 billion in budget cuts over 10 years.

Officials from the Environmental Working Group, which wants a more open process, say the specificity of the farm plan goes into far more detail than the supercommittee asked for and amounts to the private formulation of public policy.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the farm plan still had not been formally presented to the supercommittee, Peterson said, but there is a 75 percent chance the proposal will get there in time.

If that doesn't happen, Peterson said, the farm bill will be taken up through the usual hearings early next year.

Jim Spencer • 202-408-2752

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