A consumer group is asking Congress to end agriculture subsidies for junk food additives. The Illinois Public Interest Research Group released a report Thursday that shows federal subsidies for commodity crops are subsidizing junk food additives such as high fructose corn syrup. In comparison, the group says the amount of subsidies for those additives is enough to pay for 21 Twinkies per taxpayer every year, compared to just half of an apple.
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Hailey Witt, field director for Illinois PIRG, says subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables are limited. “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,” Witt said. “With the [Federal] Farm Bill about to be reauthorized, it’s time to end the waste.” PIRG’s report shows that between 1995 and 2011 taxpayers spent $277 billion in agricultural subsidies, with 75 percent of those going to 3.8 percent of farmers, mainly supporting corn and soybeans. In that same time period $18.2 billion subsidized the food additives corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soy oils. Outside of commodity crops, other agricultural products receive little or no subsidies. Since 1995 taxpayers spent just $637 million subsidizing apples, which the report points out is the only significant federal subsidy of fresh fruits or vegetables.
PIRG is asking Congress to end the subsidies. Witt believes there is bi-partisan support to do so. The group has already approached two members of Illinois delegation – U.S. Reps. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston).