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PIRGIM Education Fund
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Michigan Messenger
By
Eartha Jane Melzer

Gov. Rick Snyder’s campaign to reduce obesity may be impeded by federal agricultural subsidies that make junk food cheaper than fruits and vegetables.

In a new report — Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food — the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan finds that between 1995 and 2010 Americans spent over $260 billion on agricultural subsidies, with most of the money going to commodity crops like corn and soybeans, which are processed into high fructose corn syrup and oil and used in snack foods.

Some of the reports 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 Detroit, taxpayers give $2,448,555 each year in junk food subsidies, while only $37,883 each year for subsidies for apples. That’s enough to buy 6,443,567 Twinkies, but only 73,650 apples.

Michigan ranks among the 10 fattest states in the county and state health officials predict that if current trends continue Michigan will have to pay $12.5 billion a year in obesity-related medical costs by 2018.

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