Apples to Twinkies' Farm Bill Subsidies Compared

Comparing apples and oranges might not get you anywhere, but what about apples and Twinkies? The Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group, or PennPIRG, has been comparing the effect of farm subsidies on crops produced by American farmers. Megan Zagorski stopped by the University of Pittsburgh Community Garden to learn more from PennPIRG.

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HOST: Comparing apples and oranges might not get you anywhere, but what about apples and Twinkies? The Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group, or PennPIRG, has been comparing the effect of farm subsidies on on crops produced by American farmers. The Allegheny Frontís Megan Zagorski has more.

ZAGORSKI: PennPIRGís most recent report, called ìApples to Twinkies,î puts federal subsidies of fresh produce and subsidies of junk food side by side. Zachary Monteith, the Citizen Outreach Director for PennPIRG, hosted a visual demonstration of these subsidies at the University of Pittsburgh Community Garden.

MONTEITH: In our report we found that 18.2 billion dollars have gone to taxpayer subsidies for junk food since 1995. Thatís enough to buy 2.9 billion Twinkies every year, or 21 for every single American taxpayer.

ZAGORSKI: In contrast, Monteith says about 640 million dollars have gone to subsidies for apples in the last 15 years.

MONTEITH: Apples are the only fresh fruit or vegetable that gets significant taxpayer subsidies. Thatís enough to buy 77 million apples each year on average, roughly half of one apple per taxpayer.

ZAGORSKI: When Monteith says ìjunk food,î he means common food additives ó Twinkies donít grow on trees, after all. These food additives are found in unhealthy processed foods, which have contributed to the nationís obesity crisis.

ZAGORSKI: With the Farm Bill currently being reviewed in Congress, now may be the perfect time to reform farm subsidies to make healthier food more affordable, Monteith says. For the Allegheny Front, Iím Megan Zagorski.