PORTLAND – A new report by the Oregon Students Public Interest Research Group blames the recent farm bill for subsidies many lawmakers think will lead to unhealthier habits and waste money.
A study by OSPIRG says federal subsidies for additives like high fructose corn syrup were enough to pay for 21 Twinkies per taxpayer every year – compared to subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables that would buy one half of an apple per taxpayer.
More: OSPIRG report
Earlier this year, U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore) joined now-Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-WI) and other lawmakers to reform the bill, saying it failed to address “unjustifiable, market and trade distorting aspects of U.S. farm policies.” OSPIRG said 75 percent of the subsidies go to just 3.8 percent of farmers for mainly corn and soybeans.
Manufacturers then process corn and soy crops into additives like high fructose corn syrup and vegetable oils.
“Most people aren’t aware that their dollars are subsidizing multi-million dollar corporations as opposed to small local farmers,“ Donelle Schacher of Whole Earth Farm in Gold Beach said.
Oregon residents’ per capita share of the expense for junk food subsidies is about $7.43 on average, which OSPIRG said would buy each 21 Twinkies.
“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,” Blumenauer said. “The Farm Bill shortchanges nutrition programs and Oregon’s farmers and ranchers who grow food, not commodities. It’s time to shine a spotlight on these issues and work toward ending this waste and inequity.”
The only significant federal subsidy of fresh fruits or vegetables is currently for apples -- coming to 27 cents per person.
House GOP leaders earlier this summer decided to drop plans to extend the current farm program for one year and instead will press for immediate help for drought-stricken farmers.
Lawmakers are grappling on how to proceed with a broader renewal of farm subsidies and the food stamp program, which have experienced rapid growth in recent years.
Republicans initially had announced plans to extend for one year the current farm and food programs, which expire on Sept. 30.
But GOP leaders pulled that measure from Wednesday's floor schedule after Democrats announced opposition to the measure. New five-year farm bills passed by the Senate in June and by the House Agriculture Committee earlier this month would eliminate direct payments, under which farmers are paid even when they don’t plant a crop, to be replaced by new price and revenue support programs.
Those direct payments, now costing about $5 billion a year, would continue if the one-year extension is enacted.