Corn Belt Senators Push Back Against Eliminating Ethanol Subsidies

Chad Outler | December 16, 2010

Dec. 17, 2010 -- As Reuters reports, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) recently attempted to drastically reduce subsidies for ethanol production. Feinstein's plan was to amend HR 4853 - the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010 to reduce the import tariff on ethanol from $0.45 to $0.36, and the $0.10/gallon tax credit for small ethanol producers to $0.08.  Feinstein was ultimately unable to get a vote on her proposal, which she told Reuters would have reduced the annual cost of subsidies by $5.3 billion.

On Nov. 30, Feinstein wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on the subject that was co-signed by 16 of her Senate colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans. The letter explains that current ethanol policy exacerbates US dependence on foreign oil.

Some Senators representing midwestern states disagreed with Feinstein and submitted a bi-partisan letter of their own. The pro-ethanol senators point out that the current system is a boon to rural economies, and cite dependence on foreign oil as reason to continue.

The following charts compare campaign contributions that pro-subsidy senators such as Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) have received from entities associated with key ethanol stakeholders with contributions to anti-ethanol subsidy senators such as Feinstein.  The charts include contributions from Archer Daniels Midland and Monsanto, the largest ethanol producer in the US and the world's largest seed provider. A contribution search at returned a variety of corn processing and biofuel companies who contributed to the senators, who make up the balance of the charts. Contributions from the categories provided, "Alternative energy products & services" and "wheat, corn, soybeans and cash grain" have been vetted to eliminate contributors who are not directly related to the corn, ethanol and biofuel industries. Category codes provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Pro-ethanol subsidy letter signatories:

 Office            ADM              Monsanto            "Alt Energy"             "Wheat, corn…"          Total
Tom HarkinD - IA$21,000$40,056$14,400$11,825$87,281
Kit BondR- MO$3,000$56,700$250$16,982$76,932
Chuck GrassleyR - IA$12,750$13,500$31,550$13,750$71,550
Ben NelsonD - NE$16,000$4,250$4,500$5,000$29,750
Claire McCaskillD - MO$1,500$24,150$1,000$2,000$28,650
John ThuneR - SD$1,500$4,500$19,000$1,750$26,750
Mike JohannsR - NE$6,500$2,000$10,550$4,250$23,300
Tim JohnsonD - SD$8,000$0$9,830$1,500$19,330
Byron DorganD - ND$5,500$0$4,800$3,000$13,300
Kent ConradD - ND$10,000$0$1,000$1,000$12,000
Mark KirkR - IL$4,000$250$1,000$6,000$11,250
Amy KlobucharD - MN$4,500$1,000$1,500$0$7,000
Debbie Stabenow         D - MI$0$4,000$100$1,000$5,100
Al FrankenD - MN$0$3,500$1,000$250$4,750
Sam BrownbackR - KS$1,000$0$0$250$1,250
Total $95,250$153,906$100,480$68,557 

Anti-ethanol subsidy letter signatories:

 Office              ADM              Monsanto           "Alt Energy"        "Wheat, corn…"         Total
John McCainR - AZ$1,000$6,600$10,600$2,550$20,750
Richard BurrR - NC$0$2,000$0$11,550$13,550
Barbara BoxerD - CA$3,000$250$2,000$0$5,250
Tom CoburnR - OK$0$4,000$0$250$4,250
Bob BennettR - UT$1,000$0$0$1,000$2,000
Bob CorkerR - TN$250$0$1,000$0$1,250
Mike EnziR - WY$0$1,000$0$0$1,000
Susan CollinsR - ME$1,000$0$0$0$1,000
Sheldon WhitehouseD - RI$0$500$0$0$500
Jeanne ShaheenD - NH$0$0$0$0$0
Dianne FeinsteinD - CA$0$0$0$0$0
Jon KylR - AZ$0$0$0$0$0
Jack ReedD - RI$0$0$0$0$0
Benjamin CardinD - MD$0$0$0$0$0
Jim WebbD - VA$0$0$0$0$0
Mark WarnerD - VA$0$0$0$0$0
Chris CoonsD - DE$0$0$0$0$0
 Total $6,250$14,350$13,600$15,350 

Monetary contributions to candidate campaign committees of the above legislators. Contribution data represents contributions to members of Congress for election cycles 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010. Contributions data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.