Farm Bill: Subsidizing Twinkies for the Betterment of All

Sunday, 21 Jul 2013 09:20 PM

By Michael Kling

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The government is spending billions to subsidize junk food and very little for fresh fruit and vegetables, according to a new study.

The U.S. government spent $19.2 billion to subsidize corn- and soy-derived junk food ingredients since 1995, according to the study "Apples to Twinkies 2013" from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Federal government subsidies for junk food additives like high-fructose corn syrup would buy 20 Twinkies a year for each taxpayer. Subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy just one half of an apple per taxpayer per year.

Video: Economist Predicts 'Unthinkable' for 2013 

The subsidies are part of the farm bill expiring in September and are included in separate bills approved by the House and Senate.

"Our food policy has become so distorted that we're actually using tax dollars to subsidize junk food, but this problem has been ignored in the debate over the Farm Bill. Congress needs to either make serious changes to this legislation or reject it entirely," said Dan Smith, U.S. PIRG tax and budget advocate and report co-author.

The government spent more than $290 billion on agricultural subsidies between 1995 and 2012. Three-fourths went to 3.8 percent of farmers, mainly to support just a few commodity crops, including corn and soybeans.

Food manufacturers process corn and soy crops into additives like high-fructose corn syrup and vegetable oil that provide a cheap dose of sweetness and fat to a wide variety of junk food products.

Agricultural products other than commodity crops receive very little in federal subsidies. Since 1995, the government spent only $689 million subsidizing apples, the only significant subsidy for fresh fruits or vegetables. Coming to 26 cents per taxpayer per year, that would buy less than half of one Red Delicious apple.

"At a time when childhood obesity rates are sky-high, it's absurd that we're spending even one cent of taxpayer money on junk food, let alone billions," added Smith. "With the Farm Bill before Congress, it's time to end this waste."

Congress should be helping small farmers growing healthy food instead of subsidizing unhealthy ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, farmer Scott Washkowiak told KJCT News 8 in Colorado.

"Here’s these people who are small farm agriculturists that could use, not a handout, but help," he said.

"The food that Scott here is growing, they are fruits and vegetables," Colorado PIRG Field Director Lisa Ritland told the news station. "He just gave us apricots off his tree and these are examples of food that is not subsidized."

Video: Economist Predicts 'Unthinkable' for 2013 



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