I wrote back in June about the fact that the USDA doesn’t follow its own dietary advice.. when it comes to food subsidies. But a new report by the US Public Interest Research Group, “Apples to Twinkies,” puts more numbers to that.
This is the most striking line from the conclusions, to me:
“If these agricultural subsidies went directly to consumers to allow them to purchase food, each of America’s 144 million taxpayers would be given $7.36 to spend on junk food and 11 cents with which to buy apples each year – enough to buy 19 Twinkies but less than a quarter of one Red Delicious apple apiece.”
Wow, any wonder why we’re so obese and unhealthy in the US?
Here are some more key lines from US PIRG:
- “Between 1995 and 2010, American taxpayers spent over $260 billion in agricultural subsidies. Most subsidies went to the country’s largest farming operations, mainly to grow just a few commodity crops, including corn and soybeans. “
- “Most of these commodity crops are not simply eaten as-is. Among other uses, food manufacturers process them into additives like high fructose corn syrup and vegetable oils that provide a cheap dose of sweetness and fat to a wide variety of junk food products. Thus, Americans’ tax dollars are directly subsidizing junk food ingredients.”
- “Between 1995 and 2010, $16.9 billion in tax dollars subsidized four common food additives – corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oils (which are frequently processed further into hydrogenated vegetable oils).”
- Only 262 million was subsidizing apples. (Almost 65 times less than the above!)
- And no other fresh fruit or vegetable was significantly subsidized!
Some good news? Maybe. Here’s more from the US Food Safety blog:
“It’s possible, though, that the era of huge farm subsidies may be coming to a close. Food Safety News notes that Obama called for a massive cut to farm subsidies for the 2012 budget. The cuts were proposed as a part of his deficit reduction plan — but this new study shows how far subsidy changes could go towards cutting obesity rates as well.”
Let’s hope that happens.
You can download the full US PIRG report [pdf] here: Apples to Twinkies.