OSPIRG dings federal government for junk food subsidies
By Andy Giegerich
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
A new report from the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group's Foundation found that federal aid does more to subsidize junk food ingredients than it does to promote healthy food, such as the produce created at Oregon City's C’est Naturelle Farms.
When it comes to food subsidies, Oregon’s top consumer advocate said the federal government prefers junk food over apples.
According to a new report from the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group's Foundation, the federal government spends $1.2 billion subsidizing enough junk food ingredients to produce the equivalent of more than 2.8 billion Twinkies. Conversely, the feds have only provided $37.4 million to subsidize the growth of 77.2 million apples.
“At a time when America is facing an obesity epidemic, crushing debt and a weak economy, billions of taxpayer dollars are subsidizing junk food ingredients,” OSPIRG’s researchers wrote.
OSPIRG released its report at an event in Portland alongside U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Oregon City farmer Vernie DeMille, whose family operates C'est Naturelle, a full-diet farm that sells memberships to the public capable of providing a family table with a full menu of fresh, local food on a year-round basis.
The OSPIRG report found that American taxpayers have provided $18.2 billion toward the production of junk food over the last 18 years.
The study examines subsidies that went to large farming operations that grow such commodities as corn and soybeans. Those farms then sell the goods to food manufacturers that “process them into additives like high fructose corn syrup and vegetable oils that provide a cheap dose of sweetness and fat to foods,” according to OSPIRG.
The group chose apples as a comparison point because researchers said it’s one of the few fresh fruits or vegetables that receive significant federal subsidies.
Blumenauer and others have used the figures to criticize Congress's recent farm bill. Blumenauer said at a press conference Tuesday morning that the bill doesn't subsidize enough health-enhancing crops.
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