How Billions In Tax Dollars Subsidize the Junk Food Industry_Featured_, Food Saturday, August 4th, 2012
(By Eric Pianin, The Fiscal Times)
Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the past 30 years, an alarming public health development that is contributing about $150 billion a year to the overall cost of U.S. health care.
Almost one in five children aged six to eleven are seriously overweight, making them highly vulnerable to heart disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses.
At the same time, Congress and the Department of Agriculture are spending more than $1.28 billion annually to subsidize the crops that are used as additives in manufacturing cookies, candies, soda pop and other highly popular junk food that arguably are among the primary contributors to childhood obesity. The sweet, fatty and calorie-rich Hostess Twinkies alone contain 14 ingredients made with highly subsidized processed ingredients, including corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and vegetable shortening.
What’s wrong with this picture?
A new report released on Wednesday by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, a consumer advocacy group, highlights often tragic consequences of long-standing federal agriculture policies that have showered hundreds of billions of dollars on a small handful of crops including corn and soybeans that are processed into additives. They are the mainstays of the junk food industry.
Of the $277 billion spent on farm subsidy programs since 1995, about $81.7 billion went to subsidize corn and $26.3 billion went for soybeans. In a sign of the political clout of the biggest producers, 75 percent of the all those subsidies have gone to just 3.8 percent of U.S. farmers. In contrast, the government has provided only $637 million for apples or vegetables.