How taxpayers chip in to make Twinkies

Corn- and soy-based snack-food ingredients receive nearly 30 times more subsidies than apples. Critics say that's throwing off the nation's nutritional balance.

By Jason Notte Jul 17, 2013 7:09AM
Corn field © Bob Rashid, Brand X, CorbisEnjoy the return of Twinkies, America, and consider washing down those snack cakes with a Cherry-Coke-and-Mallomar chaser. You're paying for all of it either way.

According to a new study released by the federation of U.S. Public Interest Research Groups, or U.S. PIRG, the federal government has spent $19.2 billion subsidizing junk food ingredients since 1995.

By comparison, it has spent just $689 million on apples, which are the only fruit or vegetable to receive a substantial government subsidy.

If all that cash were given directly to the American people, the subsidy on junk food ingredients would be enough to buy each American 20 Twinkies a year -- or 52 billion Twinkies since 1995. Do the same thing with the apple subsidy, and each American would only get half an apple.

So, how is the government subsidizing smaller, staler, less labor-intensive Twinkies? According to the study, taxpayers chip in for at least 17 of the 37 ingredients in a Twinkie, including corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable shortening and corn starch. Taxpayers spent $8.1 billion of the $844 billion in corn subsidies since 1995 on similar corn-based sweeteners, while soy-based products typically labeled "vegetable" shortening or oil accounted for $11.1 billion during the same period.

While it's ultimately a consumer's choice whether to accept the negative health and obesity implications of downing all that artificial sweetener, U.S. PIRG says the subsidy imbalance stacks the deck for the snack-food aisle. That's no small detail when the House of Representatives is voting on a farm bill that's looking to both trim subsidies and separate food stamps and their nutritional requirements from the bill altogether.

U.S. PIRG has lobbied for a "no" vote on the bill, and President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the House version if it reaches his desk. Each says the implications for American hunger, nutrition and health care costs are too great to dismiss.

But, hey, at least Twinkies are back no matter how this turns out, right?

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 That modified corn crap is in everything from our medicines to our gas tanks. I believe the corn industry can and should take care of itself.
Jul 17, 2013 2:16PM
ADD THAT TO the Wal-Mart  subsidy and we can all feel a whole lot better.
Jul 17, 2013 1:56PM
Without subsidies prices would rise and people would have to push for higher wages to survive and the unemployed would either have to farm themselves or die off.  Corporate america can't have that now because that would cut into their bottom line so they throw our money at farmers to keep costs low, keep extra workers alive, and to justify low wages.
Jul 17, 2013 2:09PM
This is the political payoff for the oversized importance of the Iowa caucuses.
Jul 17, 2013 2:48PM

Our Congress at work, giving out corporate welfare again and again while complaining about welfare for the poor.  Too bad the poor cannot lobby Congress to get their fair share.


The Republicans can blame Obama for all the national debt but the Republican law makers fingerprints are all over the bills creating this corporate welfare that does not go for the American tax payer.  Subsidizing the very thing that ruins American's health does not seem to be a worthy cause.

Jul 17, 2013 2:39PM

Can you say, "Genetically Modified Organisms"?

Jul 17, 2013 2:38PM
I read a report that monsanto corps new gmo corn is devoid of any nutritional value whatsoever and if your neighbor is planting it (which they will eventually have to because there will be nothing else available) then your garden vegetable plants and all the other fields of all other types of plants will suffer through cross pollination and eventually there goes your food supply right down the crapper thanks alot monsanto
Jul 17, 2013 3:15PM
First why are we the tax payers paying for this ? Are we going to get our money back with stock And get more return for our investment. Can I claim this and get my money with intrest back ?  Or can I open a company and have the tax payers pay for everything ?
Jul 17, 2013 3:34PM
Sorry to hear that my tax dollars are subsidizing Twinkie ingredients since I never liked them.  I prefer Drake's Coffee Cake instead :-)
Jul 17, 2013 12:54PM
Seems like Mr. Notte needs a fact check. I saw no mention of subsidies for artifical sweetner.
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