USDA Encourages You to Eat Junk Food

junk food subsidized by us

I wrote back in June about the fact that the USDA doesn’t follow its own dietary advice.. when it comes to food subsidies. But a new report by the US Public Interest Research Group, “Apples to Twinkies,” puts more numbers to that.

This is the most striking line from the conclusions, to me:

If these agricultural subsidies went directly to consumers to allow them to purchase food, each of America’s 144 million taxpayers would be given $7.36 to spend on junk food and 11 cents with which to buy apples each year – enough to buy 19 Twinkies but less than a quarter of one Red Delicious apple apiece.”

Wow, any wonder why we’re so obese and unhealthy in the US?

us food subsidies
Meat & dairy get dozens of times more subsidies than fruits and vegetables. Any wonder why American's don't eat right? (click to enlarge)

Here are some more key lines from US PIRG:

  • “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. “
  • “Most of these commodity crops are not simply eaten as-is.  Among other uses, food manufacturers process them 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.  Thus, Americans’ tax dollars are directly subsidizing junk food ingredients.”
  • “Between 1995 and 2010, $16.9 billion in tax dollars subsidized four common food additivescorn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oils (which are frequently processed further into hydrogenated vegetable oils).”
  • Only 262 million was subsidizing apples. (Almost 65 times less than the above!)
  • And no other fresh fruit or vegetable was significantly subsidized!

agriculture subsidies us

Some good news? Maybe. Here’s more from the US Food Safety blog:

“It’s possible, though, that the era of huge farm subsidies may be coming to a close. Food Safety News notes that Obama called for a massive cut to farm subsidies for the 2012 budget. The cuts were proposed as a part of his deficit reduction plan — but this new study shows how far subsidy changes could go towards cutting obesity rates as well.”

Let’s hope that happens.

You can download the full US PIRG report [pdf] here: Apples to Twinkies.

Top Image Credit: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by windy_sydney
Middle Image Credit: Climate Progress
Bottom Image Credit: Apples to Twinkies

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is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.