Ag Subsidies Pay for 19 Twinkies per Taxpayer, But Only a Quarter of an Apple

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Gideon Weissman

former Policy Analyst, Frontier Group

NJPIRG Law and Policy Center

NEWARK – Federal subsidies for commodity crops are also subsidizing junk food additives like high fructose corn syrup, enough to pay for 19 Twinkies per taxpayer every year, according to Apples to Twinkies, a new report by NJPIRG released today at Lincoln Park Community Farm.   Meanwhile, limited subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy less than a quarter of an apple per taxpayer.

“At a time when childhood obesity rates are skyrocketing, it’s absurd that we’re spending billions of taxpayer dollars to make the problem worse,” said Gideon Weissman, NJPIRG Program Associate.“It’s absurd that junk food is subsidized by taxpayers, while fresh fruits and vegetables barely get a bite at the apple.”

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.Among other uses, food manufacturers process these crops 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.

Robert Wizniewski, Director of Sustainable Development with the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District, gave, explained the adverse relationship between urban agriculture and subsidies for unhealthy food: “Lincoln Park Community Farm provides city residents with direct access to affordable, organic produce grown locally in Newark.It’s ironic that simultaneous to our national “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity, locally grown food options are competing against junk food subsidized by the federal government.”

“Shoveling cash at commodity crops also means we’re subsidizing these unhealthy additives, too,” added Weissman.“At a time when government spending is coming under increasing scrutiny, it’s time for Congress to get its priorities straight.”

Among the report’s key findings:

·       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 (better known as hydrogenated vegetable oils).At $7.36 per taxpayer per year, that would buy each taxpayer 19 Twinkies.

·       Outside of commodity crops, other agricultural products receive very little in federal subsidies.Since 1995, taxpayers spent only $262 million subsidizing apples, which is the only significant federal subsidy of fresh fruits or vegetables.Coming to 11 cents per taxpayer per year, that would buy less than a quarter of a Red Delicious apple.

·       In Newark, taxpayers give $950,707 each year in junk food subsidies, while only $14,709 each year for subsidies for apples. That’s enough to buy 2,501,860 Twinkies, but only 28,561 apples.

·       New Jersey as a whole gives $29,871,208 in junk food subsidies, and $462,158 in apple subsidies.That’s enough for 78,608,443 Twinkies and 897,395 apples.

Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last three decades, with one in five kids aged 6 to 11 now obese.Research shows that increased snacking is responsible for a significant portion of this increase.

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NJPIRG, the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization. For more information, visit, or follow us on facebook and twitter @njpirg.