The relationships between large corporations and the agencies which supposedly regulate them are often described as cozy, and there’s no better concrete example of that thane the agricultural lobby.
In an article on Politico on Wednesday, March 27, David Rogers pulled back the veil on exactly how much influence corporate behemoths have on the Department of Agriculture. It mentioned numerous instances of a near stranglehold the industry has attained.
One egregious example of a company having regulators in its pocket is Monsanto, with its infamous genetically modified seeds. Legislation tells the secretary of agriculture "how he must respond the next time a court order challenges one of Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds." This is a blatant attempt by Monsanto to use government power to defend itself from potential competitors.
The agriculture lobby’s power extends far beyond having the Department of Agriculture in its pocket. Agricultural subsidies persist year after year, despite disproportionately transferring wealth to large corporations and their wealthy executives.
The article blames the process by which funding for the Department of Agriculture is appropriated. With no floor debate, regulations are attached as stipulations for the funding the committees send the department. While at first glance it should come as no surprise that the process has been corrupted, given the evolving nature of how money is appropriated for the department, it should serve as a lesson that such power grabs are seemingly inevitable when large corporations are regulated by the federal government.
It's no surprise that such large firms are able to gain outsized influence into the procedures of the federal government. With massive budgets allocated specifically to influence those who are supposed to be keeping watch over them, corporations are able to buy influence their upstart competitors will never have the opportunity to acquire. Many well-meaning liberals call for reform of these agencies, but the large number and opaque nature of both the regulations and appropriations makes it impossible for even the most astute watchdogs to keep tabs on all of them. So long as government has power, it will be available for purchase to those with the most money and connections. Those who truly want to level the playing field and stand up to corporate interests in food production should advocate the abolition of agencies such as the Department of Agriculture which serve only to consolidate the power of vested interests.