While Congress squabbles over budgets and deficit reductions, we know that lobbyists of every stripe are pushing hard to protect their interests. The agriculture sector has its own interests at stake, especially as pressures to cut spending will influence debate on the 2012 Farm Bill.

A release this week from MapLight, which bills itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan, research organization that reveals money's influence on politics, examines the flow of money from agricultural interests to members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, otherwise known as the Super Committee. The bipartisan committee is charged with developing recommendations on how to cut the federal deficit by at least $1.5 trillion dollars over 10 years.

According to the MapLight study, agriculture interest groups have contributed over $3.7 million to members of the Super Committee Since Jan. 1, 2001. The top-five ag contributors during that time were the Altria group, American Crystal Sugar, Weyerhaeuser Co., International Paper and Dean Foods. The release lists the top 20 contributors and dollar totals.

Broken out by business sectors, the top-five are crop production & basic processing, forestry & forest products, tobacco & tobacco products, sugar cane & sugar beets and livestock.

While $3.7 million seems significant, over the 10-year span of the analysis it represents just $370,000 per year – a relatively small figure in government lobbying terms. In fact, in another report, MapLight lists the top-10 industry contributors to Super Committee members during the same period, and ag doesn’t come close to making that list. Lawyers and law firms top the list at just under $32 million. Securities and investment firms place second at $11.6 million followed by health professionals at 9.7 million. Number 10 on the list – insurance companies – donated $6 million, well ahead of agribusiness.

Another MapLight analysis, however, documents agribusiness contributions to members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, which, not surprisingly, were considerably higher at $26.7 million over the past 10 years. The top-five contributing sectors were crop production & basic processing, milk & dairy producers, sugar cane & sugar beets, agricultural services & related industries.

The top-five contributors from the livestock (non-dairy) sector were the National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Livestock Marketing Association, Texas Cattle Feeders Association and Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.