AgriThority’s Jerry Duff, left, and ShiGui Zhang, center, discuss cotton with a plant breeder in China. (Courtesy of AgriThority)

Cassidy & Associates, one of Washington’s most lucrative lobbying shops, is partnering with the Kansas City, Mo.-based food and agriculture consulting firm AgriThority to expand its services in developing countries, leaders at both firms said.

It is Cassidy’s first joint venture with an entity in the agricultural business, and vice chairman Gregg Hartley said the alliance will help Cassidy tap into new clients, particularly in Southeast Asia and Africa, that are looking to modernize agriculture technology and distribution.

AgriThority, a four-year-old private company with 70 consultants worldwide, works with major agricultural groups and biotech companies on food safety, quality and sustainability and issues, such as how to grow and maintain crops in developing nations to cut down on imported foods.

“For almost three decades of the 37 years we’ve been in business, we’ve had a fairly sizable international practice and represented foreign governments and NGOs that work in developing parts of the world,” Hartley said. “In terms of helping a country that eats a lot of rice quit importing rice and start growing it and set up a distribution model to do it, we didn’t have an answer to give them. Now we can go back to those clients and demonstrate how to develop a more modern agrarian system.”

It is the latest move Cassidy and other lobbying firms are making to diversify services beyond traditional lobbying.

Cassidy, led by K Street veteran Gerald Cassidy, has seen revenue from formal lobbying decline each year since 2007, when the firm brought in $24.5 million in lobbying fees. By 2010, that figure had dropped 18 percent to $20.2 million, and in 2011 it slipped to $19.7 million — a 12-year low, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Now, the firm is more aggressively seeking consulting work that doesn’t fall under the traditional definition of lobbying. Those efforts include a 16-month contract the firm signed with public relations firm and sister company Weber Shandwick last year to consult on the Russian government’s bid to host the 2020 World Expo. Cassidy also began consulting for Korean companies selling their products to the U.S. government (through the Korean Trade-Investment Promotion Agency), and for not-for-profits on climate and environmental public policy issues.

In total, between 8 and 10 percent of Cassidy’s revenue now comes from non-lobby work, and Hartley said he’d like to see that grow to 20 percent by 2014.

“Coming out of a tough lobbying climate and three years of a tough economic climate, it’s just wise to have a broader portfolio looking forward,” he said.

The seed of the firm’s partnership with AgriThority was planted last summer on a front porch overlooking a farm in Centralia, Mo., (population 3,700) at the 40th high school reunion for Hartley and AgriThority’s business and marketing specialist Jerry Duff, who grew up together.

“I hadn’t really thought about working with a lobbying firm,” Duff said. “I talked to Gregg, we compared notes and it seemed logical for us to look at working together. The way our model is set up at AgriThority and with contacts Cassidy has ... we can move forward in helping develop food and agricultural production and food security in any given country.”