Recent reports by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group indicate that a significant portion of federal farm subsidies end up in junk food produced across the country. Farm subsidies, which have been an important part of the U.S. agricultural industry for decades, are used to shore up crop prices, regulate production, and guarantee production of major American staple crops. One of the most heavily subsidized crops grown in the U.S. is corn.
According to a U.S. PIRG report, titled “Apples to Twinkies,” the majority of produce that is subsidized by the federal government ends up contributing to obesity rates across the country. Between 1995 and 2010, the U.S. government spent $260 billion on agricultural subsidies. According to U.S. PIRG, about $17 billion of that money goes to the production of corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oils, all common food additives that contribute heavily to weight gain. According to the report, the amount of public spending equate to about nineteen Twinkies produced per taxpayer per year.
Groups like U.S. PIRG have seized on the report to argue against increasing federal farm subsidies. According to these groups, subsidizing crops that are used to produce junk food could increase obesity rates and damage the health of the U.S. as a whole.
The Farm Bureau, however, claims that these accusations are spurious. Arguing for more parental responsibility, a spokesman for the Farm Bureau said, “If the point of the study is to identify farm programs as a villain for childhood obesity, there are a heck of a lot more black cats in the room than farm programs. Even if farm program payments are cut, junk food isn’t going to go away. Parental guidance has to come into play.”
The report comes at a bad time for the farm industry. With Congress currently looking to cut almost $2 trillion from the federal budget by November, many Congressmen are looking at farm spending as a potential target.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer