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Ag subsidies for junk food accounts for $7.36 for taxpayers; apples, 11 cents.

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  • Ag subsidies for junk food accounts for $7.36 for taxpayers; apples, 11 cents.
    A new report released this week has found that, among the billions of dollars spent each year in federal subsidies for commodity crops, a steady flow of these taxpayer dollars are going to support high fructose corn syrup and three other common food additives used in junk food.

    The report, “Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food” by CALPIRG and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, studies the interesting question of whether the nation's problem with obesity is fueled by farm subsidies.

    From 1995 to 2010, $16.9 billion in federal subsidies went to producers and others in the business of corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soy oils, according to the report.

    The findings come as the White House has been rallying to battle childhood obesity, and Congress is poised to potentially either quash or curtail direct farm subsidy payments in the future.

    So how much is America spending? Enough for each U.S. taxpayer to buy 19 Twinkies a year, according to the report. In comparison, it said, federal subsidies for fresh produce would cover only a few bites of an apple per taxpayer a year.

    One of the more interesting findings: Taxpayers in the San Francisco area spend $2,762,295 each year in junk food subsidies, but only $41,950 each year on apple subsidies.

    “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,” CALPIRG officials said in a statement.

    You can read an executive summary of the report, and get a copy of the full report, here.

  • #2
    Re: Ag subsidies for junk food accounts for $7.36 for taxpayers; apples, 11 cents.

    Well I wasn't depressed today until I read this. The more I read stories like this, of the government screwing the people sooooooooo badly while favoring Big Ag, Big Pharma, Big FIRE, Big Education, Big (insert special interest here), the more I think there is just no getting back to sanity.

    Revolution? No worries! Americans are too apathetic, too afraid, too dependent, too patient or too clueless to rebel. I honestly think that in the "boil the frog slowly" game, we are far past the point of no return. We lost.

    For my mental health I'm going to logoff, go outside and eat an apple. Or a Twinkie.


    Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.


    • #3
      Re: Ag subsidies for junk food accounts for $7.36 for taxpayers; apples, 11 cents.

      This is frankly more than a bit disingenuous.

      While it is true these subsidies exist, they are merely part and parcel of a gigantic farm subsidy system in the United States.

      The overall amount of farm subsidies is 11 digits:

      • $261.9 billion in subsidies 1995-2010.
      • $167.3 billion in commodity subsidies.
      • $39.2 billion in crop insurance subsidies.
      • $35.0 billion in conservation subsidies.
      • $20.5 billion in disaster subsidies.
      • Top Commodity Recipients 1995-2010
      • Top Commodity Recipients in 2010
      • 62 percent of farmers in United States did not collect subsidy payments - according to USDA.
      • Ten percent collected 74 percent of all subsidies.
      • Amounting to $165.9 billion over 16 years.
      • Top 10%: $30,751 average per year between 1995 and 2010.
      • Bottom 80%: $587 average per year between 1995 and 2010.
      Given that we're looking at over $15 billion dollars in subsidies just for 2010 - and it is unclear if the $7 billion a year or so ethanol subsidies are counted in (probably not), it shouldn't be surprising that some part of it went to corn growers which output soybean oils or high fructose corn syrup.

      I should also note that the 'free money' post I put up in commodities falls under this category of subsidies.


      • #4
        Re: Ag subsidies for junk food accounts for $7.36 for taxpayers; apples, 11 cents.

        Agriculture subsidies are such a phenomenal waste of money that leads to such an enormous waste of resources as to border on the absolutely ridiculous. One of Starving Steve's memes is lowering the costs of energy so that we may turn deserts into farmland, but California already subsidizes water used to grow crops to the tune of roughly 99%, meaning the least-suited crops for that region, the ones requiring significant amounts of water, are grown at the expense of the California taxpayer. That is but a small form of ag subsidy, but it illustrates the problem caused by artificial non-market incentives introduced into the marketplace.

        What I don't understand is how farmers can continue to rape and pillage the public treasuries of this country. They generally represent a very small fraction of the population! Why does this alleged democracy allow a small wolf to feast upon so many sheep? It is curious, to say the least--but I guess apathy is the root cause. Probably the same reason why unions are politically powerful even though so few are actually in a union.

        I don't think the article is all that disingenuous, but I do think it's wrong, generally, to try to link agriculture subsidies to obesity. Obese people are the reason for obesity, and little else is even a factor. People are in essentially complete control over whether they gain or lose weight and they are therefore responsible for their own obesity commensurate with how much control they have. The people who aren't really in control are generally afflicted by disease and can't keep food down, but they are hardly the source of the obesity problem.