CALPIRG report: Agricultural subsidies support junk food


CALPIRG's local campaign director stood at the farmers market near City Hall in San Francisco with a plate of Twinkies and a half an Apple to make her point.

"We are spending over a billion taxpayer dollars each year on subsidizing junk food," said Angelica Maduell, from CALPIRG.

CALPIRG's claim is based largely on farm bill subsidies to the growers of corn and soy, which are ingredients in a lot of so called junk foods.

"In our report we found that $18.2 billion taxpayer dollars have subsidized junk food ingredients since 1995," said Maduell.

It appears CALPIRG is basing their numbers on the past farm bill subsidies over the past 17 years, but Congress has changed the farm bill dramatically.

The Senate version ends direct payments and subsidies to big agribusiness, it provides money to growers of so called specialty crops, fruits, vegetables and nuts, and it expands the federal crop insurance program. So what does that have to do with Twinkies?

CALPIRG campaign chair told ABC7 News the organization's main objection is to that crop insurance.

"The taxpayers are subsidizing crop insurance for these large agribusinesses," said Maduell.

Nancy Pelosi's office in Washington D.C. said she supports the Senate version of the bill and the insurance is a tiny portion of the bulk of spending which goes to help feed the poor through the food stamp program. The Senate's version of the farm bill actually cuts $4 billion from food stamps. The Republican-led House proposal would cut $16 billion over the next 10 years.

"That's not going to be a good thing for us. I'm homeless right now," said Patricia Gilbert, a food stamp recipient.

"To have the food stamp program for people like myself, it's very much needed," said Tracy Ferrell, a food stamp recipient.

"It'll be like malnutrition and very devastation yeah," said Michael To, a food stamp recipient.

Back at the farmer's market, when CALPIRG left their prop on the table, someone walked up to take a Twinkie. If Congress turns its back on the farm bill, the current funding runs out at the end of September.

There are 45 million Americans who receive food stamps - that's roughly one out of every seven.

The House has a little more than a week before the August recess and then they'll have about a week and a half in September to pass a bill before the current funding runs out.

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