Agribusiness Industry Groups: Topic Overview
The main objective of agribusiness industry groups in the United States is to influence public policy by advocating to the media, public, industry, Congress, and U.S. or foreign government agencies. Industry groups help farmers and companies coordinate their efforts and resources for success in a dynamic economic and political system. They ensure producers gain access to retail markets and the food supply chain. One example is the “dairy” industry’s mission to stay relevant in a market that has been suddenly saturated with plant-based milks.
Industry groups are usually nonprofit. They represent animal agriculture producers directly or they represent marketing cooperatives (cooperatives consist of either farmers and processors, or they are organizations acting on their behalf). It is important to note that simply because these are nonprofit organizations, does not mean executives earn low or even average salaries. Often, executives earn as much as their private corporate counterparts yet they decline to disclose their salaries regardless of the Freedom of Information Act.
Overall, the sole objective of industry groups is to ensure profit. Therefore, animal agriculture producers receive bailouts, credit, and tax adjustments which other industries and individuals do not have the privilege to benefit from. They claim to address animal welfare, environmental issues, and food safety, but these issues always take a back seat to economic success.
One of the most prominent groups is the Animal Agriculture Alliance (AAA): they focus on a wide breadth of issues. They state their initiatives are: farm security, monitoring activism, influencer engagement, stakeholders summit, etc. Industry groups such as this alliance not only propose legislation, they also monitor proposed legislation in order to prevent anything that may interfere with profit or public image from passing. Their website includes information and strategies for monitoring animal rights groups.
They also list current or pending animal welfare legislation they are monitoring in order to shut it down. Their list includes the Farm System Reform Act (backed by Senator Elizabeth Warren) which aims to “place a moratorium on large concentrated animal feeding operations.”
The Animal Agriculture Alliance (among other industry groups) supported the Executive Order concerning meat packing plants signed by President Trump in April 2020. Trump invoked the Defense Production Act which classified “meat” processing facilities as essential infrastructure. He did so to ensure profit and protect the U.S. supply chain during COVID-19, but this resulted in hundreds of workers catching COVID-19 and many deaths.
Some prominent special interest groups include: National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), National Institute for Animal Agriculture, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Poultry Association, National FFA, Organization (Future Farmers of America), Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry (The Grange), National Farmers Union, National Milk Producers Federation, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Swine Veterinarians, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
It’s important to note that some groups consist of national networks of insurance agencies as well. For instance, The Farm Bureau provides insurance to farmers in addition to lobbying. They have secured millions in subsidies while simultaneously earning millions from insurance premiums.
The Farm Bill is a massive piece of federal legislature (the first Farm Bill was introduced in the 1930s) which has maintained the direct payments, incentives, and subsidies to animal agriculture over the years. It is often amended and renewed every few years. Nevertheless, the bill has not decreased its financial support to the industry. The 2018 Farm Bill consisted of $867 billion to the industry and was signed by President Donald Trump in December 2018.
One of the most nefarious pieces of federal legislation is the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act” (2002). This act is described as a “model law proposed to prohibit entering an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video, camera, or other means with the intent to commit criminal activities or defame the facility or its owner." Those who are convicted are added to a “terrorist registry.” The industry group behind this is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC): a nonprofit conservative organization made up of state legislators and private sector representatives.