Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the past three decades, fueled, in part, by a ready supply of junk food. And taxpayers are overwhelmingly fueling commodity crops winding up in junk food, according to an Illinois consumer activist organization.
A report released today by Illinois Public Interest Research Group looked at where agricultural subsidies are going, and here are some of the findings:
From 1995-2010, American taxpayers spent more than $260 billion on agricultural subsidies — most of which went to large farming operations growing a few commodity crops such as corn and soybeans, some of which get turned into high fructose corn syrup and vegetable oils that wind up in junk foods, according to Illinois PIRG.
In those same years, $16.9 billion in tax dollars subsidized four common additives, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soy oils. At $7.36 per taxpayer a year, the organization contends, this would buy each taxpayer 19 Twinkies.
Other agricultural products, other than commodity crops, get little in federal subsidies, the report found. Tax subsidies for apples — the only significant subsidy for fresh fruits and vegetables — have added up to $262 million since 1995, or 11 cents per taxpayer per year.
In response, Doug Yoder, senior director of affilliate and risk management at the Illinois Farm Bureau, said some fruit and vegetable producers have shunned subsidies because they haven’t wanted more growers flooding the market.
He also harks back to why subsidies were put into place, to guarantee safe, ample food production, and says free enterprise and consumer demand dictate what manufacturers do with ag products.