Report: Most Taxpayer Money Subsidizes Junk Food

From 1995 to 2011, $18.2 billion went to subsidies for junk food additives compared to $637 million for apples, according to CALPIRG

A consumer report released Wednesday revealed the majority of federal taxpayer-funded farm subsidies are being funneled toward crops used to make junk food and food additives, such as high fructose corn syrup.

Ron Cornelson, of Cornelson Farms, makes the trek from Fresno County to the Santa Monica Farmers Market every Wednesday to sell the fruits from his 10-acre farm.

"I’ve never seen a subsidy. I’ve tried and, as far I know, it all goes to the big guys and other commodities," Cornelson said.

Nearly all California farmers – 91 percent, according to CALPIRG field director Anne Ohliger – don’t receive federal food subsidies.

The report, Apples to Twinkies 2012, found that three-quarters of all agricultural subsidies go to commodity crops – such as corn – and support four major junk-food additives, Ohliger said. Those additives are high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn starch and soy oils.

From 1995 to 2011, $18.2 billion went to subsidies for junk food additives -- compared to $637 million for apples, the only significant federal subsidy for fresh fruit and vegetables, according to CALPIRG.

That $18.2 billion figure is enough to buy each taxpayer 21 Twinkies every year. But the $637 million in subsidies for apples would buy each taxpayer just half of one apple annually.


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The statewide consumer group says this discrepancy in funding exacerbates an obesity rate that has tripled over the last three decades, which in turn leads to rising medical costs.

"Congress is looking at the farm bill as we speak, and they have the opportunity to cut this kind of wasteful spending," Ohliger said.

Local farmers contend that government money should support small businesses.

"The subsidies would help me do things that I need to do that I can’t do now," Cornelson said.

His attempts to save money a few years ago by installing a more economical irrigation system cost him thousands of dollars after being denied a subsidy.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect dates for the span of the CALPIRG story.

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