Ag Subsidies Pay for 19 Twinkies per Taxpayer, But Only a Quarter of an Apple Apiece

For Immediate Release


Michael Russo, Policy Analyst
(213) 251-3680x332

Ag Subsidies Pay for 19 Twinkies per Taxpayer, But Only a Quarter of an Apple Apiece

Taxpayer Subsidies for Junk Food Wasting Billions

WASHINGTON - Federal subsidies for commodity crops are also subsidizing junk food additives like high fructose corn syrup, enough to pay for 19 Twinkies per taxpayer every year, according to Apples to Twinkies, a new report by U.S. PIRG.   Meanwhile, limited subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy less than a quarter of an apple per taxpayer.

“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,” said U.S. PIRG Policy Analyst Mike Russo.  “It’s absurd that junk food is subsidized by taxpayers, while fresh fruits and vegetables barely get a bite at the apple.”

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.  Among other uses, food manufacturers process these crops 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. 

“Shoveling cash at commodity crops also means we’re subsidizing these unhealthy additives, too,” continued Russo.  “At a time when government spending is coming under increasing scrutiny, it’s time for Congress to get its priorities straight.”

Among the report’s 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. 

Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last three decades, with one in five kids aged 6 to 11 now obese.  Research shows that increased snacking is responsible for a significant portion of this increase.

The report is available online, at


U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.

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