More than 1,200 registered agricultural lobbyists influence decision making on a variety of topics, including farming, scientific experimentation, pesticide use, type of crops grown and farm subsidies. Lobbyist pay varies with the individual and the lobbying firm, but the employment field as a whole earns some of the top salaries in Washington, D.C. -- a geographic lobbying center where the average income for all workers tops six figures.
American Farm Bureau Federation
The American Farm Bureau Federation, or AFBF, the largest agricultural lobbyist group in the country, claims to represent approximately 80 percent of the ranchers and farmers. With an annual budget in the range of $30 million in 2010, the AFBF ranked as the third largest "agribusiness" lobbying group in the country and spent more than $5.6 million on promotion in 2010. More than 125 lobbyists work at the AFBF's 3,000 state, regional and local offices; however, the nearly 20 full-time lobbyists bringing in the largest paychecks in 2010 worked in Washington, D.C. The group keeps lobbyist salaries secret.
Altria Group and Tobacco Farmer Lobbyists
Altria owns the three largest U.S. tobacco companies, and with an annual fund of $10.4 million, it funds the one of the largest lobbying budgets in America. Lobbyists working for tobacco farmers and related agriculture keep salaries secret, but firms must report lobby income under federal law. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour worked as a tobacco industry lobbyist from 1998 to 2002, as part of the firm Barbour, Griffin and Rogers. While Barbour's exact salary is unknown, the firm employed between 8 and 15 lobbyists and earned $3.8 million during those years lobbying on behalf of the tobacco industries, according to ABC News reporter Brian Ross.
Monsanto and Chemical Company Lobbyists
Chemical company lobbyists represent agribusiness supplying pesticides and soil treatments to farms. These lobbyists rank as one of the top three lobbying groups in the country, contributing more than $8 to influence policy in 2010, according to Market Watch. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, reports workers in the lobbying industries, labeled public relations and promotional managers under the BLS classification system, earned a median annual wage of $115,650 in 2008; this figure includes both the lowest lobbyists working in remote offices with the highest earners living in the nation's capital.
General Lobbyist Work
Lobbyists attract clients after demonstrating access to government officials and policy makers. The lobbying agencies with the greatest influence work with agricultural interests represented by farm bureaus, tobacco and the chemical industry. While lobbyists specialize in networking with legislators focused on farm issues, lobbyists also network concurrently with interests outside agriculture to make valuable government connections for future agribusiness lobbying work. New lobbying transparency laws passed in 2010 disclosed the annual salaries of the lobbyists returning to government to serve as staff for congressional leadership and make future lobbying connections. The average salary of this group while serving as lobbyists in 2010 ranged between $238,000 and $309,000.