NJPIRG blasts federal subsidies for ‘junk food’

TRENTON – A public interest group has released its latest report in which it says federal agricultural subsidies promote the junk food industry and obesity.

NJPIRG, the N.J. Public Interest Research Group, released its 2013 report, “Apples to Twinkies 2013: Comparing Taxpayer Subsidies for Fresh Produce and Junk Food.”

The report, issued Tuesday, is critical of federal money subsidizing additives such as high-fructose corn syrup at a rate that it says by way of comparison would buy 20 Twinkies a year for every taxpayer.

The issue is topical because these subsidies are maintained in Farm Bills recently approved in the Senate and House. The current Farm Bill expires in September.

“Our food policy has become so distorted that we’re actually using tax dollars to subsidize junk food, but this problem has been ignored in the debate over the Farm Bill. Congress needs to either make serious changes to this legislation or reject it entirely,” Jen Coleman, NJPIRG Advocate, said in a release.

According to the 2013 report, between 1995 and 2012, American taxpayers spent more than $290 billion in agricultural subsidies, with 75 percent of the subsidies going to just 3.8 percent of farmers.

New Jersey residents’ share of the expense for junk food subsidies is about $30.12 million each year on average, compared with just $1.08 million in subsidies for apples, NJPIRG stated. That’s enough to buy 9 Twinkies, but only 0.23 of an apple, the organization said.

“At a time when childhood obesity rates are sky-high, it’s absurd that we’re spending even one cent of taxpayer money on junk food, let alone billions,” added Coleman. “With the Farm Bill before Congress, it’s time to end this waste.”

NJPIRG acknowledges that neither corn nor soy are unhealthy, but says the problem is when they are used as additives to “sweeten and thicken” foods.

“These empty-calorie additives find their way into the majority of junk foods and beverages in America,” the report said.

NJPIRG blasts federal subsidies for ‘junk food’