New Report Links Agricultural Subsidies to Childhood Obesity

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NMPIRG Education Fund

Albuquerque, NM – 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 NMPIRG Education Fund.   Meanwhile, limited subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy less than a quarter of an apple per taxpayer.

“Childhood obesity rates have quadrupled over the last few decades,” said Alexander Corkett, a NMPIRG Education Fund staffer.  “And shockingly, American taxpayers are spending billions to subsidize junk food ingredients, making the problem worse.”

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. 

“The fact that so many tax dollars are being wasted on junk food demonstrates the need to reform these subsidy programs and end this wasteful spending, ” continued Corkett.

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 Albuquerque, taxpayers give $1,872,502 each year in junk food subsidies, while only $28,971 each year for subsidies for apples. That’s enough to buy 4,927,637 Twinkies, but only 56,254 apples.

Christina Cole, a former CNM Professor of Nursing attended the event and stated, “HFCS is almost always a marker of poor-quality, nutrient-poor disease creating industrial food products or “food-like” substances.  HFCS on the label is a good indicator that the product is not a whole, real, fresh food full of nutrients, fiber, and vitamins.”

Patrick Staib-Flores Coordinator of Agri-Cultura, a farming cooperative in the South Valley said, “If we are not advocating for a reallocation of these Agricultural Subsides, we should at least eliminate them in order to create a level playing field were all businesses can compete equally in an open and free market.”